"Karaoke Grandma's" Criminal Conviction: Could File-Sharing Be A Mental Illness?

"Karaoke Grandma's" Criminal Conviction: Could File-Sharing Be A Mental Illness?

Summary: A 58-year-old grandmother is sentenced to three years' probation and must attend cognitive behavioral therapy sessions as part of her criminal file-sharing sentence. Violet Blue asks psychologist Dr. Keely Kolmes, PsyD, if file-sharing is now considered a disorder.

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This week a 58-year-old grandmother was convicted for sharing music, sentenced to three years' probation and must attend cognitive behavioral therapy sessions as part of her criminal file-sharing sentence. To find out if file-sharing might now be considered a disorder, I asked psychologist Dr. Keely Kolmes, PsyD, to explain this unusual new twist in criminal file-sharing prosecution.

Anne Muir is a nurse and grandmother of eight who is said to have collected and shared over 7,000 music files and more than 24,000 karaoke files - making her one fun grandma to spend a Saturday night with.

BPI (British Recorded Music Industry) and IFPI (International Federation for the Phonographic Industry) didn't see it that way.

Characteristically going after someone with few resources to fight back, Scotland's first illegal music sharing conviction had BPI and IFPI estimating she'd made £54,000 worth of copyrighted music files available to others via a peer-to-peer file sharing application.

Despite raiding her home based on complaints from BPI and IFPI, “Ms Muir did not make any money. What she did was not commercial,” said the Sheriff.

Anne Muir admitted distributing the files.

And that - the sharing part - is what's most important when trying to understand why sentencing a file-sharer to cognitive behavioral therapy (in this case, for OCD) is pretty problematic.

Grandmother Gets File-Sharing Conviction: But Does It Mean She's Mentally Ill?

It's not just us tech geeks that joke about "having OCD" when it comes to our passions, especially as we love to chase down things that aren't on the roads most traveled.

Anne Muir was a prolific user of a particular file sharing network - her lawyer didn't tell us how (surely) awesome she is a karaoke, but he did say that Ms. Muir had used the network to build up her self-esteem after suffering from depression for a number of years.

Ms. Muir is currently the one person convicted in the UK for online copyright infringement. In addition to being sentenced to three years of probation, she has been ordered to attend mandatory cognitive therapy treatment sessions for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Joking about OCD is one thing. A criminal conviction with sentenced treatment isn't funny.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and The File-Sharer

Muir's treatment is specifically for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder with hoarding. The court is saying that her hoarding behavior accounts for the acquisition of the files.

Dr. Keely Kolmes, PsyD, is widely recognized as one of the leading voices in American psychotherapy in regard to its emergent roles in the digital frontier. The author of A Psychotherapist's Guide to Facebook and Twitter, she also recently wrote a NY Times Op-Ed on the challenge of consumer review sites for mental health professionals.

At first glace on Ms. Muir's sentence Dr. Kolmes remarked, "One wonders if sharing files is antithetical to hoarding behavior. Typically, with hoarding the items are stored but not used."

Dr. Kolmes unpacked the Court's alleged relationship between file-sharing and OCD as seen in its ruling on Ms. Muir,

Actually, the hoarding behavior is a criterion for Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder, but not OCD. (See item 5 in the list below).

Diagnostic criteria for 301.4 Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

A pervasive pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and mental and interpersonal control, at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by four (or more) of the following:

(1) is preoccupied with details, rules, lists, order, organization, or schedules to the extent that the major point of the activity is lost

(2) shows perfectionism that interferes with task completion (e.g., is unable to complete a project because his or her own overly strict standards are not met)

(3) is excessively devoted to work and productivity to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships (not accounted for by obvious economic necessity)

(4) is overconscientious, scrupulous, and inflexible about matters of morality, ethics, or values (not accounted for by cultural or religious identification)

(5) is unable to discard worn-out or worthless objects even when they have no sentimental value

(6) is reluctant to delegate tasks or to work with others unless they submit to exactly his or her way of doing things

(7) adopts a miserly spending style toward both self and others; money is viewed as something to be hoarded for future catastrophes

(8) shows rigidity and stubbornness

Reprinted with permission from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision. Copyright 2000, American Psychiatric Association.

Dr. Kolmes tells us,

Cognitive therapy would address the hoarding, through looking at thoughts and beliefs that support the behavior (e.g. someone may have ideas that surrounding themselves with objects eases their anxiety or fears). This treatment would look at the ideas related to the acquisition of objects.

So, I don't think we'll be seeing file-sharers on "Hoarders" anytime soon. Or will we? The court may not have illustrated whether Ms. Muir's karaoke collection - and devotion to sharing it - was any more excessive than other file sharers. Dr. Kolmes continues,

If the accumulation of a large number of computer files is now enough to meet the criteria for hoarding, then this would seem to be a new feature of the diagnosis and it would seem that a lot of generally high functioning computer folks would falsely qualify for the diagnosis without meeting the rest of the criteria.

Typically, the criteria includes holding on to worthless objects that take up space and create clutter or an unhealthy living environment.

Which begs the question, of who, exactly, file-sharing was unhealthy for.

Case Prosecutor Mirian Watson stated that, “Illegally flouting copyright laws is tantamount to theft and not only deprives legitimate companies and artists of earnings, but also undermines the music industry as a whole.

We will continue to work effectively with law enforcement in this area and to apply our robust prosecution policy,” she added.

I don't know about you, but this kind of law enforcement, prosecution, and sentencing is enough to make me crazy.

Image by Kevin Dooley, under Creative Commons 2.0 Generic license, via Flickr.

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  • RE: 'Karaoke Grandma's' Criminal Conviction: Could File-Sharing Be A Mental Illness?

    Russia used to do this. If you fought against the state, you were considered mentally unbalanced, since why would someone fight against the perfect political state. In reality it was a way to punish those who didn't like the system.<br><br>You have the same thing here, only the fun twist here is that it is music and not politics that is being used as a hammer. People fought against the Soviet state because it was a crappy system that persecuted and used people. Today the Music industry uses the same procedure for the same reason. They are losing money not because of file sharing (In my day it was called sharing your records and tapes), but because they consistently put out a crappy product for too much money. Does anyone believe for a second that Lady Gaga isn't making money? It's because she's actually talented and puts out a quality product.
    odysseus93
    • RE: 'Karaoke Grandma's' Criminal Conviction: Could File-Sharing Be A Mental Illness?

      @odysseus93 - Global corporations will soon make the oligarchs of the Soviet era look like pussycats! Any government inevitably answers to its people, as we see now in the Mideast. A corporation only ever answers to itself.
      omb00900@...
    • RE: 'Karaoke Grandma's' Criminal Conviction: Could File-Sharing Be A Mental Illness?

      @odysseus93: Yeah, that was the first thing that came to my mind too, when I saw this. This is really scary stuff.
      masonwheeler
    • Exactly.

      @odysseus93 I'd dispute the fact that Gaga puts out a quality product...

      But regardless you're correct. They put out a lot of crap. Why would I buy an album when there's only one "good" song on it... Modern artists aren't working on albums they're working on singles.

      Contrast this with when I get a Led Zeppelin album, for example. Only 5 songs may be singles, but the whole album is good and it has a coherent artistic purpose and vision.

      If the music industry wants to make money off of record sales they should stop focusing on gimmicks and singles. No one wants to pay 17.99 for a CD with 12 songs they don't want to listen to...
      snoop0x7b
      • agreed! the &quot;industry&quot; is pushing popular singles and radio personalities

        @snoop0x7b

        instead of quality artistry that meet the user's needs.
        some of my favorite songs were never played on the radio.
        if someone cannot or otherwise would not purchase an album, they should not be deprived of access to the art.
        the file sharer is simply the modern equivalence to the museum and library.
        if the music can't be disseminated in a legal fashion to everyone, people will find other ways.
        it is human nature, not always a disease.

        :)
        .
        wessonjoe
  • RE: 'Karaoke Grandma's' Criminal Conviction: Could File-Sharing Be A Mental Illness?

    UK... 1984... Is there more to say?
    Tommy S.
  • RE: 'Karaoke Grandma's' Criminal Conviction: Could File-Sharing Be A Mental Illness?

    Let the brainwashing begin in communist usa. Re-education camps for all who are against the freedom hating government and it's government controlled minions.
    katrillionaire@...
    • RE: 'Karaoke Grandma's' Criminal Conviction: Could File-Sharing Be A Mental Illness?

      @katrillionaire@... Dude - it's the U.K. At least wait until it's really the U.S. to bash us! I don't think such a sentence would fly, even here in the U.S.
      omb00900@...
    • The argument was why it happened...

      @katrillionaire@... UK, not US. And the lawyer used an argument that didn't really give the judge a choice... If your argument hedges on a mental illness, which this lawyer's argument does, of course your client will get treatment.
      snoop0x7b
    • Respone To A Very Misdirected Post

      Re: "Let the brainwashing begin in communist usa (sic). Re-education camps for all who are against the freedom hating government and it's (sic) government controlled minions."

      As omb00900 states, this article is about a case in the U.K., not the US. Yet even if katrillionaire's response was on topic, its characterization of American economy and government is still very misdirected.

      The US is not communist. The real meanings of "capitalism," "socialism," and "communism" identify who has rights of ownership to production, distribution, and revenues for goods and services. Capitalism is private ownership; socialism is worker ownership; and communism is public ownership. Purportedly communist nations in history such as Stalinist Russia, Mao Zedong's China, North Korea, Cuba, Laos, and Cambodia have therefore not been communist at all, but rather totalitarian dictatorships.

      America is also not socialist or communist, but a capitalist economy. America's original democratic republic government has been highly subverted by extremely wealthy corporate special interests seeking to influence legislation favorably for increased profits. Interests like the RHIA are picayune compared to pharmaceutical, coal, and oil corporations, but they are all birds of the same feather.

      So rather than "government controlled minions," American government is actually heavily influenced by extreme wealth. The result is a de facto plutocracy.
      Cardhu
      • RE: 'Karaoke Grandma's' Criminal Conviction: Could File-Sharing Be A Mental Illness?

        No economy is pure system. Any country that tries to implement a pure economic philosophy goes straight to the toilet. We're so simple minded in the U.S. these days that no one understands this. If you have laissez faire capitalism people take advantage and millions suffer. If you have pure communism or socialism people take advantage and millions suffer.
        davey23
  • RE: 'Karaoke Grandma's' Criminal Conviction: Could File-Sharing Be A Mental Illness?

    Again this wacky delusion from the record industry - a file shared is a file stolen? Not so. The majority of the sharers don't even have time to listen to their "stolen" music. They collect it compulsively, listening to perhaps 5 seconds of each track as the search for the next piece of their "collection". Many are unaware that they are in turn being used by other collectors.

    Would those same people have bought the music if they could not find it for free? Almost certainly not. And with near certainty, I can say that if they were paying for music, they would have paid for a tiny fraction of what they have downloaded.

    These people (file sharers) download and share because they can. Not because they particularly want the music, or would have bought it with real money.

    The real problem is younger people who don't buy music anymore, and who are tech-savvy enough to get what they want through channels that are hard to detect. These people are rarely "sharing" their files, just taking and using, and doing so with impunity. These people are the criminals, but since they are hard to catch, and only steal what they actually use - so losses are relatively small, the recording industry fails to go after them.
    dimonic
    • RE: 'Karaoke Grandma's' Criminal Conviction: Could File-Sharing Be A Mental Illness?

      @dimonic -- DITTO!
      Software Architect 1982
    • RE: 'Karaoke Grandma's' Criminal Conviction: Could File-Sharing Be A Mental Illness?

      @dimonic
      "These people are rarely "sharing" their files, just taking and using, and doing so with impunity. These people are the criminals"

      Like people who listen to radio. The FM radio doesn't even have a coin slot to pay for the music. Lock up all the radio listeners!
      FelicityPilchard
      • RE: 'Karaoke Grandma's' Criminal Conviction: Could File-Sharing Be A Mental Illness?

        @FelicityPilchard You're stealing. You're taking something you didn't pay for. There's no way to spin it. Radio is paid for through advertising dollars; that comment doesn't even make sense.
        jgm@...
      • RE: 'Karaoke Grandma's' Criminal Conviction: Could File-Sharing Be A Mental Illness?

        No... we simply let corporations get us into a doublethink and let them redefine the word "steal." It's not stealing if you are not taking property away from the owners... the owners still have full use of their original property. It might be something else wrong, but using the word stealing is a way to poison the debate. It makes no sense in this context.

        BTW, this whole thing has never been about artists getting paid... it's about corporations getting paid. The record company are just as unreliable paying their artists as ever.
        davey23
      • RE: 'Karaoke Grandma's' Criminal Conviction: Could File-Sharing Be A Mental Illness?

        @davey23 No, you're the one redefining the word "steal". By that definition, sneaking into a movie for free isn't stealing. Splicing wires to get free cable isn't stealing. Bouncing a check to a plumber or service technician isn't stealing. Bringing a portable scanner and printer to your local book store, plopping them down on a table, copying and printing out a few entire books and magazines and walking out of the store with them isn't stealing. You're obtaining for free something which you're supposed to be paying for. If it's a service or you're able to duplicate it doesn't make it anything else. Please attempt to go before any judge in any Western nation and tell them that it "makes no sense" to charge you with stealing for sneaking into a movie. The right to view the movie was being sold and you obtained it without paying.
        jgm@...
  • ocd

    Shit, I just found out I got OCD.
    npung@...
  • RE: 'Karaoke Grandma's' Criminal Conviction: Could File-Sharing Be A Mental Illness?

    Land of the Free? Home Of the Brave? It takes a great dea of courage for a corporate bottom feeding lawyer to bully a grandmother. Only in america.
    inkwell
    • RE: 'Karaoke Grandma's' Criminal Conviction: Could File-Sharing Be A Mental Illness?

      @inkwell Except its the UK
      athaki