Is ignorance a valid legal defense for file-sharing?

By Mark O’Neill
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

A 16 year old girl has successfully managed to have her fine for file sharing reduced after she argued she was too young to understand that her music downloading was unlawful.   Which raises the question – is ignorance a valid legal defense?

Whitney Harper will now only have to pay $200 per downloaded song instead of $750 which was the penalty demanded by the record labels.   $200 is still an outrageous amount for a single song, but I suppose most of it is a deterrent and a penalty for what she has done.

Her lawyer argued in court that “a person her age could not understand the illegality of her acts and could therefore not be capable of intentionally infringing the copyright in the music.”

Harper told the court in a statement that she had had “no knowledge or understanding of file trading, online distribution networks or copyright infringement”.   She went even further and said that she believed programs like KaZaA “to be similar to online radio stations”

The judge believed her.

I’m leaning towards the notion that the judge is a moron and that 16 year old Whitney has taken him for a ride.  Show me one 16 year old that doesn’t know what a file sharing network is?   Show me one 16 year old that doesn’t rip CD’s, that doesn’t have illegal MP3’s on their iPod’s and MP3 players?    Every 16 year old knows what a file sharing network is and what it does!  I bet if the judge has children, they’re probably at home right now downloading Season 3 of Prison Break.

Do you agree?   Or is ignorance really a valid Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card?   Can a person really be too young to know what they are doing in things like this?

Geeks are Sexy needs YOUR help. Learn more about how YOU can support us here.