If you follow the news about music piracy and the RIAA's valiant attempts to eradicate it, you've probably heard about a couple well-publicized cases. Most notable is Jammie Thomas, who owes $2 million in fines for downloading 24 songs.
To put the crime and punishment in perspective, Gapers Block has compiled a list of seven crimes that will incur smaller fines than music piracy. The list includes arson and kidnapping.
Seriously, read the whole article. It's good. I'll wait.
Not everyone is sympathetic to the plight of Jammie Thomas. Theft is theft, don't do the crime if you can't do the time, etc. All I can say is, when you fine someone $2 million for downloading 24 songs, it's no longer punitive damages. It's a business model.