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New Internationalist

Cyber crimes

Next time you're downloading a film or music through the internet, spare a thought for Hew Griffiths, 44 years old, unemployed and now languishing in a jail half a world away from his home. Unlike most of the other inmates, he's not there for doing drugs, theft or assault. Rather, his crime was to belong to a group that cracked security codes of some of the United States' biggest media moguls, giving group members access to software and games that - if downloaded - could have been accessed free of charge. And whilst Australian authorities did not charge him, they nevertheless complied with a US request to send Hew to them for trial. In June this year he was judged by a Virginian court and sentenced to more than four years (51 months) in jail; shunted into a cell meant for two men in which three would sleep.

But Hew is only the first in a disturbing new trend. Following in the traditions established at Guantanamo Bay, the US is putting the world on notice that borders will not limit their prosecution and punishment of copyright crimes.  For as US Attorney General John Ashcroft explained in 2004 - with copyright industries contributing more to US economy than the entire Gross Domestic Product of countries like Argentina, The Netherlands, and Taiwan - his administration cannot afford to do otherwise. To brief us about copyright crimes in cyberspace - crimes' new frontiers - lawyers from India and Australia join today's program:

  • Cyber-space copyright experts Lawrence Liang from Bangalore, India, and Professor Andrew Christie from Australia put us in touch with the world of intellectual property and debate whether Hew's crime fits his punishment.
  • Stephen Kenny - whose represented four men arbitrarily detained in the war on terror - argues that the real offence against criminal law is shunting Hew off to another country for trial and sentence.

The music of Indian musician Debashish Bhattacharya also stars this week with three guitars that he designed himself. In Indian cosmology, the Trinity is a powerful symbol - for instance Tri Netra - Sanskrit for three eyes - represents past, present and future. Together the guitars straddle the styles of one thousand years of Indian music. The result is the magical CD Calcutta Slide Guitar.  

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