Our protagonist is one who may be unfamiliar to you. That’s because he is a geek. Those of you who join him in this culture know what I mean. Most of the world, however, does not. While many of you who are interested enough to read this bit of fiction will be geeks, statistically speaking many of you will not be.
A geek, in case you are unaware, is anyone who has chosen to pursue skill and imagination over conformity. This is often technical skill, but may be any skill. Geeks are usually of above-average intelligence, and are prone to neophilia.
Those of you who do not share these qualities may have a harder time relating to our protagonist. It is perhaps for this very reason that he finds himself in the situations that he does. Hopefully as the story unfolds you will allow yourself a glimpse into his world.
Our story begins, not with the protagonist, but with his brother. His brother is not a geek, and while his is not a moron, his is of fairly average intelligence. We find him in the home of his friend. I say “friend” only because their relationship could not be fairly classified as anything else. Before too long, they will likely be more. Being as they are both in their late teens, this will probably get messy. Luckily, they are not the focus of our plot.
They are, at this point, watching a movie. What movie doesn’t really matter, since they about to be interrupted by a team of private investigators bursting in their front door.
The lead investigator takes stock of the situation before speaking. Two young people, watching a movie. Hardly the stuff he’s used to crashing in on. He puts on a confident face, but before he can address them, the girl speaks up.
“What are you doing in my living room?” She shoots a nervous look over at her not-quite-boyfriend, hoping he hasn’t done anything wrong.
“We are here to issue you a summons to the courthouse for tomorrow morning.” The investigator is calm now. This is not the way a summons should be delivered. He shouldn’t just bust in someone’s door for this. He’s worked for some scum before, but this…
The girl looks helplessly confused. She keeps glancing at her not-quite-boyfriend, as if he’ll know what’s going on.
The investigator figures she hasn’t quite understood, so he gestures at the still-playing movie. “We detected a case of copyright infringement.”
“Wait, that’s what this is about?”
“You broke into my house over a downloaded movie?” Now she’s confused. How did they know? Why did they care? Is this the way most lawsuits start? She’s also mad. She has rights, or at least thinks she does. This seems like a violation of something.
“I don’t make the rules, miss, I just enforce them.” The investigator almost sounds apologetic.
Her words drip with sarcasm. “And dramatically, apparently.”
Her not-quite-boyfriend has been silent this whole time. He’s smart enough to realise that they are in over their heads. “Alright, well, you’ve issued your summons. We’ll be there.” He thinks for a moment, then addresses the girl, “I’ll call my brother.”
The call is reaching our protagonist. Would be, anyway, if he were awake. For him it is the middle of the night. He’s recently decided to live on UTC time, so his body clock is more than a little off from those around him.
He does not wake up to answer the call. This is not because he is a heavy sleeper, but because his phone does not make any noise. It stays on vibrate at all times, and right now it’s lying inside its holster on his dresser.
He does eventually wake up, however, and when he does his first reaction is to reach for his phone. He uses it to catch up with what those he follows on the Internet have been discovering over his night. He then glances at his blog subscriptions and his email, before finally noticing that he has a voicemail message.
Checking his voicemail is not something he does often, and he has quite forgotten how. He figures that any communication coming to him in a form that he has forgotten how to retrieve must not be urgent, and makes a mental note to figure it out later.
After putting on some clothes and pushing some waffles in the toaster, he sits down at his desk and types his password in to his computer. The screen wakes up, and he spends some time scanning over mailing list emails and unread IRC activity. Nothing too important has happened in the world since he last sat at this desk.
He remembers that he has a voicemail message. It’s probably from one of his family members. Who else would try to contact him by telephone? A short time on the Internet later he has discovered that he must dial a number and enter an access code to retrieve the message. After a brief hunt around the interface on his phone he has found the dialpad. Just as he suspected, the message is from his brother. Blabbering on about court and a movie and his not-yet-girlfriend.
One of his terminal windows is flashing. He hits a simple key combination and finds that one of his geeky friends, whose handle is “acklas”, has sent him a link over IM. For clarity, I should let you know that our protagonist’s handle is “nicnus”.
14:46 <acklas> It seems Old Media isn’t taking any time to take full advantage of the new treaty.
14:46 <nicnus> /me reads
14:50 <nicnus> Did we really expect anything different? They’ve had spyware on user’s computers since the day it was ratified.
14:51 <acklas> I guess I hoped people would resist, or take it off, or *something*.
14:55 <nicnus> I’m actually quite surprised that it took them this long to start hauling people in.
14:56 <acklas> Well, that article is an industry press release. First news I’ve heard.
14:56 <nicnus> That’s true. This is the first I’ve heard of it. Actually… my brother left me a voicemail this morning.
14:56 <nicnus> He said something about copyright or something.
14:56 <acklas> Hate that.
14:56 <acklas> What’s that got to do with this?
14:56 <acklas> Oh. You think they got him?
14:57 <acklas> If they did, does he even know any lawyers?
14:58 <nicnus> I’m not sure, I’ll listen to it again.
14:58 <nicnus> I don’t think so.
15:00 <acklas> They’re pushing for maximum statutory damages, the article says.
15:01 <nicnus> No way he can afford that. Yeah, he’s saying they’ve been asked to come to the courthouse. 10:00 their time. What is that?
15:01 <acklas> .625Z, that’s like now
15:02 <nicnus> crap
** You have been set to away
He’s about to step out the door when he realises that his waffle is still in the toaster. He runs back to grab it, shoves it in his mouth, and then goes to wait for the bus.
As our protagonist enters the courthouse, his phone buzzes. He pulls it from the holster as he walks. One new message:
He quickly tapped out a message for his own microblog:
Heading in to help defend/inform my brother #spywaresuits
He has to ask around the courthouse a bit to find the room where his brother is about to go up in front of the judge. Quickly verifying that he does have the right room, and that his brother is indeed already standing before the judge, he summons his confidence and pushes through the door as quickly as he can.
“Nicholas Henry Brannigan for the defence.”
The judge stops mid-sentence to look up at this new intruder. “… you are?”
“Brother to the boyfriend.”
The judge shakes her head and waves her hand, “You’re not even a lawyer, are you?”
“I’m an interested party with more knowledge of the laws in question than either of the accused.” Nicnus stifles a smirk. The formal language sounds forced when verbalized.
The judge addresses the accusing lawyers, “Do you have a problem with this?”
“Not at all, your honour. If he wants to make a fool of him self, by all means.”
The judge waves her hand again. “Fine. There’s nothing much to try here, though. I already have the evidence from the inspector showing that the accused did indeed violate copyright laws.” She sees that our protagonist is about to protest and cuts him off, “The evidence is legal. The defendant agreed to the terms on the MusicBox software, which allow for this sort of data to be collected for just this purpose. The terms themselves are legal under the recent intellectual property treaty.”
Nicnus nods, “I am aware of that.” He glances over at the empty jury seats. It sounds like the judge expects to conclude this right away. “I take it that my brother and his friend are not to be judged by a jury of their peers?”
“They are not. There are too many of these going on today. I’d really rather make this quick, and I have the right to do so in this case.”
Nicnus is unsure if that’s true, but he sees no point in arguing with the judge. He has no doubt that the infringement was real, or that the evidence is. “Well then, we stipulate to the infringement, and ask for leniency.”
“On what grounds?”
On the grounds of it being a dumb treaty, he wants to say. That’s not much of a defence. Why shouldn’t they be assessed the maximum damages? They did violate the law, and that can be easily proved. The media industry now has the legal right to install spyware along with other products, such as music stores, so long as the user is notified. The law says nothing about how fine the print can be on this notification. That may be a good reason for leniency, though…
“On the grounds of ignorance, ma’am. The laws are new, and neither of the accused were aware of their full implications.”
“Ignorance is not a defence.”
“No, it is not. I hope, however, it may be grounds for leniency.” Nicnus shifts his weight a little nervously.
One of the lawyers on the other side stands quickly, “If it please the court, we are concerned that leniency on this matter would set a bad precedent.”
“Well,” Nicnus says quickly, re-asserting his confidence, “The accused also have no means of paying the maximum damages.”
“We are willing to structure the payments over time, your honour.”
“Fine,” the judge clearly does not want to bother listening to this. She knows there will be a number more of these cases today. “Maximum damages of $100 000 per file assessed. The evidence shows 12 files were uploaded, at least in part. $1 200 000 to be paid to the plaintiff on a structured basis to be negotiated by you.” She banged her gavel down, “Next!”
Nicnus, his brother, and his brother’s not-quite-girlfriend quickly file out of the courtroom. Nicnus takes out his phone again and posts:
Brother raped by media industry. They’re just railroading the cases! #spywaresuits