"Tim Starback of Émigré, said when I asked him what they would like me to do, that he wanted me to go to jail and lose all my money and computer."
July 20, 2000 6:53 PM   Subscribe

"Tim Starback of Émigré, said when I asked him what they would like me to do, that he wanted me to go to jail and lose all my money and computer."  Four companies are currently trying to have a graphic artist sent to jail for hosting a graphics community site using Hotline. Apparently he allowed users to "store backup files" of proprietary software online. I know, I'm tempted to "ahem" over that description too, but reading the guys story leads me to believe this is more of a naive David vs. four vindictive, publicity-seeking Goliaths. What do you think?
posted by quonsar (9 comments total)
It's funny that this guy is also in San Diego. I also got sued recently for software piracy by a big graphics company. But I wasn't doing anything as blatant as this guy was. If I were him I would try to settle ASAP. Or get used to jail time.

I'm sure Tim thought the same thing I did, that no one would ever bother with a small fry who wasn't trying to make any money. But these companies don't care about merit or real market impact, they just want to make an example of anyone they can.

They want to "Mitnick" this guy. And they will - he's screwed.

On the other hand this guy doesn't seem like a naive hobbyist. He had a very busy site and he claims he had tons of savvy users. So he didn't know he was pissing all over copyright law? I don't think so.

Just remember these assholes will sue anyone who has ever LOOKED at a pirated copy of their software. They are heartless, savage bastards that only care about the joy of taking you down.

Expect to see a lot more people you know getting sued. I wasn't even using the software I got sued for. They just knew I had it.
posted by y6y6y6 at 7:28 PM on July 20, 2000

Who is this guy kidding? No one is that naive.
"...4,000 average daily connects, and close on 15,000 file transfers daily..."
Did this guy think that people were downloading their own software? That's about 4 downloads/connect on the average. What a joke.
"...many of them are business travelers who have limited space to carry their work with them."
Wha...? Ba ha ha ha! I can barely comment on the stupidity of this statement. Their companies don't have dial-up LAN access? This guy is going to prison.
Basic Criminal Law
1) mistake of law is NO DEFENSE - means that he knew of the law but had no understanding that this act would fall under that law.
2) ignorance of law is NO DEFENSE - no excuse ignorance, each bears burden of finding out the law. Doesn't matter if one has a good motive.
posted by internook at 7:45 PM on July 20, 2000

speaking as a type designer, this guy has been pissing on my royalty checks for quite some time now. he's been warned several times in the past, and frankly, since i develop my fonts without reimbusement and sell them for royalties, i'm ecstatic to see him shut down.

tim starback has been a huge advocate of typography as a form of individual expression, arguing that the forms are as copyrightable as a painting. the company he works for, emigre, has done more for typographic artists than any other this century. this lawsuit is the culmination of tim's work. it is not publicity-sniffing, it is someone trying to make a living from his art.
posted by patricking at 10:17 PM on July 20, 2000

Listen....Maybe the guy was infringing on copyrights. So what. Fine, shut him down, scare the hell out of him. No problem. But PRISON? Jesus Christ!!!! That's where rapists and murderers go to be punished for their crimes. Real crimes that several-thousand years of Hammurabian, Judeo-Christian, and every other --ian tradition dictate a just punishment for.
Sending this guy to the big house for copyright infringement is like killing a fly with a shotgun.
posted by Optamystic at 11:04 PM on July 20, 2000

It won't be the "big house". It will be Federal minimum-security prison. I know, I know, especially when they're not locking up drug dealers for longer than a snooze alarm while their girlfriends go to jail until their kids are in college. (rc3 had a link, I'm being lazy).

This guy swore up & down over at k5 that he had no contact with the font companies prior to the appearance of armed federal agents at his door. I couldn't believe that then, and even less now that Patrick reports he's notorious. "copyrightcomplaints@hotlinesite" forwarded to /dev/null? yahright.

The thing is, they'll never send you to jail for running Napster. (Maybe.) But if you're a service provider and winking at legal requirements ... and the infringement runs into six or more figures ...
posted by dhartung at 11:35 PM on July 20, 2000

I can't believe anyone is buying this guy's story. The idea that he didn't know his site was being used for piracy is impossible to believe -- 4,000 users making 15,000 file transfers daily is an average of 3.75 per user. His users sure do recover "their" (wink, wink) software a lot from backup.

Also, he says on Kuro5hin that his user agreement was vetted by a lawyer and "did not allow any form of legal entities to enter the server. So if the FBI did enter it before they seized my system, that is a problem i can use." If he had no idea there were legal issues associated with his site, why did he make an explicit effort to deter legal authorities from logging in? That trick is something the porn and piracy BBS operators used to try. I think it's hilarious when people try it -- I wonder if anyone running a speed lab thinks they can avoid a bust by putting "no cops allowed" on the door in big letters.

I think it's a shame he's lost his computer and is looking at jail time for piracy, but he knew that his site was being used as a warez server. I hope he doesn't expect the courts to be as naive as some of the people posting on Kuro5hin.
posted by rcade at 8:03 AM on July 21, 2000

I don't think he should be jailed; I do think he shouldn't get his hardware/software back and he should be be forced to do community service (hey, set up networks in schools), or even have wages garnished as part of a settlement for damages.
If he's got this whole smart setup going on in his house, then I have a really hard time believing that he's that naive -- if he knew enough to throw on some kind of legal agreement, then he should have known that it wouldn't neccesarily hold up in an actual court of law.
Five minutes with a lawyer would've saved this kid one helluva lot of trouble...
And, geez, how many jet-setting graphic designers do you know? C'mon, kid, come up with a better line...
posted by metrocake at 8:05 AM on July 21, 2000

Now, can someone lock up Monotype for pirating Palatino and Microsoft for distributing it?
posted by holgate at 9:47 AM on July 21, 2000

All 14,000 of those file transfers weren't just graphic software, he also provided space for people to store and display their work. "Virtual Drive" type-thang.

That's just a refinement though. If you're going to advertise the fact that you're flaunting well-known software copyright laws as a means of attracting people to your site, a knock on the door by the FBI should be the expected consequence.

He made the comment that he offered an email address for companies to send him cease & desist notifications, but that doesn't change the fact that people were leeching untold amounts of pirated software off his site before these companies could've heard about it, and that's potentially millions of dollars lost to those companies. Of course he's going to jail.

It's a pretty simple formula. If you steal, you get in trouble. I learned it when I was 2.
posted by cCranium at 10:20 AM on July 21, 2000

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