In case you didn’t know, Kim Dotcom, the founder of mega-site Megaupload has been indicted and is awaiting extradition to the United States from New Zealand. Dotcom is accused of money laundering, racketeering, copyright infringement and a host of other crimes. That’s all well and good, it’s the justice system, and people don’t seem to have a problem with him being punished for stealing. The problem people are having with it? That he is being punished so much.

Now, what does that have to do with lawyers not commenting on the post? Well, earlier today, I was trying to get over a headache that had been plaguing me all day, so I went to Facebook (I’m not a doctor, but I’m pretty sure it’s a homeopathic remedy). Scrolling through the news feed, I noticed something that one of my less-tech savvy friends posted. The picture I posted above.

As you can see in the above ‘infographic’, Dotcom is facing up to 50 years in prison for his assortment of crimes. The numbers are the maximum, and he could be sentenced less, but 50 is the number the prosecution seems to be aiming for. On a personal level, you may think 50 years is excessive (and by looking at him, his health will probably prohibit him from surviving those 50 years). But on a non-personal level, no one really cares what your personal opinion is on the matter. That’s because the justice system already has preset maximum sentences, written right into the law. It’s how the system works.

Do I think that the MPAA and RIAA have a hand in pushing for the maximum sentence, as opposed to a shorter sentence? No doubt. With thugs like Chris Dodd in charge, I have no doubt that they are pushing the prosecutors to go for the maximum prison stay. I bet if given the option, the MPAA and RIAA would go for the death penalty. In the end though, the prosecutors will go for the punishment they see fit, and the judge and jury will hand down the punishment that is fit. It’s just the way the system works.

However, most people who are perusing the news don’t see it this way. They see a guy who helped people “steal” (are we still calling it stealing in the mainstream?) getting 50 years, and a guy who kills people getting 20. “It’s wrong!”, they scream. “Injustice!”, The Pirate Bay proclaims. Well, frankly it doesn’t matter.

The legal system – at least in the United States – exists for two reasons: to deter people from committing crimes and to punish those who do commit crimes. It’s not complicated (on a macro level, at least), and all of the punishments and statutes are based off of this idea.

Why does this matter? Well, the punishments themselves don’t really matter to either of those goals. 20 years? 50 years? Whatever, it’s a long time. Long enough for people to be dissuaded from committing those crimes. It is also long enough so that the punishment on both crimes are justifiably long. That’s how the whole system works.