29 December 2007

How Hated Does the RIAA Want to Be?

The recording industry is an extraordinary example of not learning from experience. You would have thought that the backlash against its heavy-handed response to people downloading music would have been enough to teach it a lesson, given the negative image it earned as a result. Apparently not:

In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.

The industry's lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are "unauthorized copies" of copyrighted recordings.

"I couldn't believe it when I read that," says Ray Beckerman, a New York lawyer who represents six clients who have been sued by the RIAA. "The basic principle in the law is that you have to distribute actual physical copies to be guilty of violating copyright. But recently, the industry has been going around saying that even a personal copy on your computer is a violation."

This is beyond a death wish.


Anonymous said...

I'm not thrilled with the RIAA's obstinance, but we all have the right _NOT_ to buy music, and it's not right to steal, no matter what price they want to set. Re MP3's not being a physical copy, that's ridiculous - the RIAA is 100% correct - an MP3 copy on a hard drive or USB key is every much a physical artifact as music on a CD. Whether is's legal to make that copy is a separate matter I'm not able to comment on.

Glyn Moody said...

Well, I'd take the opposite view: I'm not advocating that people should break the laws, but I don't think an MP3 is the same as a physical copy - and I do think the difference is important.

MP3s can be copied for effectively zero cost (a few electrons are required). CDs, by contrast, really cost something to make (not much, but something).

If you take a CD, you are stealing a physical object that costs something to make. If you copy an MP3, there is no theft - nothing has been taken, the original is still there. At most, there has been an infringement of an intellectual monopoly.

If you want the full half-hour argument, you can find it here.

ShadowRunner said...

Ok lesson one, filesharing is not stealing, stealing involves the taking of ones property, and the lost of said property. with file sharing nothing is lost. thats like saying that if I like my neighbors picnic table and go into my back yards and chop down a tree and build one that looks just like it I am stealing from my neighbor.

Glyn Moody said...

@ShadowRunner: indeed, but it's even better - you don't need to cut down the tree: you can just magically make a copy.