Monday, May 5, 2008

Music File Sharers: 1, RIAA: 0

In the continuing battle to shut down illegal peer-to-peer music sharing Websites, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which represents the U.S. recording industry, has been dealt a blow. The District Court of Arizona has ruled in the case of Atlantic vs. Howell that simply keeping music in a "shared" folder on one's PC doesn't constitute illegal file sharing. In addition, the court called the act of downloading content from someone's PC "secondary copyright infringement" rather than "primary", since that person would be taking a copy of a copy, and not a copy of the original. Do you follow? The Court adds that the definition of "distribute" within the Copyright Act is not made clear enough to determine if simply making music available to others in itself can be considered "distributing" it.

At the end of its decision, the Court stated that it "is not unsympathetic to the difficulty that Internet file-sharing systems pose to owners of registered copyrights. Even so, it is not the position of this court to respond to new technological innovations by expanding the protections received by copyright holders beyond those found in the Copyright Act."

This makes sense. If someone steals something from me, how is it my fault? The owner of a stack of CDs in his car isn't considered at fault if a thief breaks in and steals them, even if he accidentally left the door unlocked. So why should someone be considered at fault if he fails to protect his PC hard drive, and others steal content from it?

It's true that, in some cases, people will purposely leave music in a "shared" folder in order to ramp up P2P site offerings. But in other cases, it could be an honest mistake. I'll bet that my parents make all their music available through a shared folder and don't even know it!

In this particular case, the Howells had over 4,000 music tracks available through the online P2P site KaZaA, many of which were digitally ripped copies of original recordings. However, although they admit to purposely sharing other content via KaZaA, they claim not to have intended to share the original recordings.

This could be a groundbreaking case in the issue of music distribution online and P2P sharing, which has plagued the music industry for years. Many artists have been taking the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" stance as of late, doing things like offering music tracks for free online in hopes of gaining consumer support. What's your stance on this issue?

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Lee_D said...

I still get my music the old fashioned way, but I can't tell you how happy sensible judgements like this make me. Every time the RIAA loses, an angel gets its wings!

Anonymous said...

I think the RIAA is getting desparate or trying to see how far they can go with this thing, what's next if I hum a tune I'll need to compensate RIAA or fear I'll get sued.