On May 10th 2011, it was widely reported that Anne Muir, a 58-year-old woman from Scotland, had pleaded guilty to criminal file-sharing offences. The conviction of Muir, a grandmother from Ayr, represented the first case of its type in the country.
Muir, an auxiliary nurse, was said to have amassed a collection of media including some 7,493 music files and 24,243 karaoke files which she made available via an unnamed Direct Connect hub. Sources at the BPI and IFPI, who conducted the initial investigation into Muir’s activities, placed a ‘market value’ on her collection of £54,792.
Following Muir’s conviction, Ayr Sheriff Court deferred sentencing in order to obtain a psychological report following claims that Muir suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a condition which causes her to hoard, in this case music files.
Today the decision on sentencing was handed down.
The court Sheriff stated he had been advised by the crown that it was the first case of its
kind to be heard in the country.
Muir had faced 10 criminal charges but pleaded guilty to only one of sharing music but
“not to any extent”.
“Ms Muir did not make any money. What she did was not commercial,” said the Sheriff. “She is a first offender so imprisonment would not be beneficial.”
Muir was put on probation for 3 years and ordered to attend mandatory cognitive therapy treatment sessions for her Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. She will return to court Tuesday 30th August for a probation report.
“It is indicative of the concern felt for Ms Muir that the Court considered reports from three different experts regarding her mental health,” David Cook from Burrows Bussin Solicitors told TorrentFreak. “Although the psychological treatment sessions that she is obliged to attend will probably be of benefit to her, the entry on her criminal record will definitely not be.”
Cook, whose law firm previously successfully defended a 17-year-old alleged uploader to the now-defunct music tracker OiNK, and a 56-year-old administrator of the BitTorrent forum, FileSoup, says that IFPI and BPI have again targeted someone with little chance of adequately defending complex and time-consuming allegations.
“Alarmingly, this was not a commercial enterprise and Muir was not alleged to have made any money from these offences. She must be considered to have minimal culpability compared to others in the file-sharing chain. Yet again, the industry have chosen to pursue someone remarkable only by virtue of their vulnerability,” Cook concludes.
Today’s sentencing is the final chapter in a case which stretches back more than 3 years. The initial investigation into Muir’s activities began in late 2007/early 2008 and was carried out by the BPI and IFPI. Their evidence and a formal complaint was handed over to Strathclyde police, who later obtained a search warrant to seize evidence in raid against Muir’s address in June 2008.
As was revealed in her trial, Muir had to “make available” many thousands of tracks in order to gain enough status to be allowed access to the Direct Connect hub in question. The same would be true of the music industry investigators. It is perhaps food for thought that the some of the very files made available within the sharing hub – including those shared by Muir – were actually supplied by the music industry.