According to The Australian, during an audit of computer systems by the South Australian police force’s IT branch, police computers belonging to hundreds of police officers were found to contain movies.
The origin of these movies is not clear, but it is probable that they’ve been downloaded via p2p at some point, either on these systems, or on the personal systems of officers and transferred over.
Senior officials of the SA police force have been made aware of the findings, including its commissioner Mel Hyde. However, police sources have told press that there will not be any investigation into this, citing the large numbers of police officers involved.
The Australian Federation against Copyright Theft (AFACT) has said it will write to the commissioner to seek an explanation, presumably as to why the police officers are being let off with what it considers a heinous crime. Quite ironically, AFACT boasts of “working closely with police” – perhaps this closeness has shown the police officers involved just how unimportant and meaningless this so-called ‘crime’ is in the grand scheme of things.
If the officers do go unpunished, it could create a favorable precedent for filesharers in South Australia. If police officers, who are expected to be held to a greater level of accountability regarding the law, show this level of contempt for the current copyright laws, are unpunished, it will make it harder to convince a court that regular citizen should be punished for similar acts.
On the other hand, if the officers are punished under the law, which allows for upto AUS$60,500 (About US$55,700 or 35,500Euro) per infringement and up to 5 years imprisonment, the ability to effectively police the state will be severely diminished.
Either way, this case will bring to a head the vastly disproportionate penalties for an act that, as yet, has never been proven to be even financially damaging. One thing is certain, when even the police officers join large numbers of citizens in flouting such laws, the law’s place in society should be called into serious question.
The South Australian police force had not responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.