After Aikido last night, Kevin and I repaired to The Walmer and had a chat whilst waiting for Mark, Nat, Gav and Ju to show up. Interesting.

"My dad's just had a letter from a record company", he said.

"Oh yeah", I replied, wondering what that was all about.

Turns out that Kevin's dad had a rather nasty letter from the record companies (or rather, the BPI) - yes, one of *those* nasty letters. His three children (age 12-15) have been defrauding the music industry, and now he has to pay a £2000 fine (which goes up to £3000 if he doesn't pay immediately, and if that doesn't get paid he goes to court).

The poor guy doesn't really know what file-sharing even is; his kids were the ones doing it all, apparently to the tune of 1500 files between them - so to put it in Old Terms, that's the rough equivalent of each child (sorry, I mean "major filesharer" or "large-scale uploader") making tape copies of 50 of their mates albums. I hope I won't invite prosecution by revealing that in my wanton childhood days I probably did much worse. I am reliably informed that each has a large CD collection, so their downloading wasn't a complete substitute for music purchases. As I understand it, Mr Kevin is making an offer to the BPI of £400 and has told his children that Christmas won't be coming this year.

All this stuff has been written to death online, but hearing the details of it happening to someone real somehow brought home how evil it all is. Plus it seemed to expose a ludicrous contradiction: either the kids are too young to take responsibility for their actions (in which case can the BPI really threaten their dad?), or they're old enough to take said responsibility (in which case why aren't they the ones being sued)? And what are parents supposed to do - not buy broadband? Learn more about Napster than their children?

Aren't legal threats of this nature, by huge corporations against individuals for things they may not have done, a little unfair? Isn't this effectively a tax levied by threat of legislation?

I'm trying to get hold of a copy of the letter so's I can paste it up here...