This was not a case involving political speech or transformative user-generated creativity. This was not a case of mistaken identity. Nor was it a case where the recording industry sought maximum damages; recall that the plaintiffs offered to settle up-front for $3,500 – reflective of the costs of investigation and enforcement, with some deterrent bite.
This was a case about not paying for sound recordings, not paying a justifiable penalty for not paying for sound recordings, and running up the costs of litigation though dishonesty and vexatious litigation. In the short run, this social movement promises that many music fans will have more money in their pockets and more sound recordings on their computers and portable devices; and that record labels, music publishers, recording artists, and composers will have less to show for their efforts and talents.
But in the longer run, Joel’s logic erodes the economic infrastructure of creators and the dynamic capacity of market institutions to build productive and reinforcing relationships between creators (not just composers and recording artists, but also authors and filmmakers) and fans. That is the purpose of copyright and it has provided critical support for composers and recording artists for a century; and authors for even longer.
It's kind of sad that this even needs to be said, but I'm glad Menell said it. Go read the whole thing.