Friday, April 27, 2012

Making the Punishment fit the Crime

A forty-five-year-old woman who stole two thousand books from San Diego County libraries to sell on has avoided jail. She was sentenced to thirty days of community service and must pay the libraries $7,600 for the lost books. She’s also forbidden to visit certain libraries and to sell or shop online.
Her story is all over the romance loops, with opinions there varying from, “lock her up in jail for life”, to “forgive her”.
I find the situation quite fascinating, as theft of digital books is common, annoying, and removes from the author (and the publisher) their right to be paid for their intellectual work. Yet even in these cases some people insist they have a right to download pirated books, as they do pirated music and videos.
I agree that some people cannot afford to pay the price of books/movies/music. But that’s why libraries were invented. So people can borrow the books free of charge (but not steal them to resell!).
My personal opinion is that the punishment should fit the crime. Those who steal books should be made to work for the authors and publishers until the cost of what they stole has been made up. I know a lot of authors who’d enjoy having their garden weeded and their house cleaned freeing them to sit and write!
* With apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan, “The Mikado”
My object all sublime
I shall achieve in time —
To let the punishment fit the crime —
The punishment fit the crime;
And make each prisoner pent
Unwillingly represent
A source of innocent merriment!
Of innocent merriment!

Helen Woodall

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