Criminals

>> Sunday, December 30, 2007

It appears the RIAA is claiming in an Arizona lawsuit that copying your own CDs for your own personal use is a violation of copyright, even if you don't share the files with anyone else. Ripping a CD so you can play it on your laptop or portable player, or copying a CD for the car so you can leave the original at home (a sensible precaution to mitigate your loss if your car is broken into) would be illegal if their arguments prevailed. This would also throw into question the "Sony Betamax" case from the early '80s, which allowed television viewers to copy broadcast programs to videotape for limited personal use.

Aside from the fact that the RIAA's argument criminalizes nearly every music owner in the United States, there's the fact that such an argument would be bad for technical innovation: had such an argument been accepted in 1984, not only would videotape be dead, but it would have curtailed existing analog audio cassette technology and the development of other storage technologies--including CD, minidisk, flash storage, and larger hard drives (let's face it, one of the driving forces between larger flash and HD capacities in smaller components has been the use of these devices in portable music players such as the iPod and in consumer media servers like TiVo).

The RIAA appears to be under the impression that they can force people to purchase digital downloads, not realizing that purchased downloads are a supplemental source of music for many consumers. That is: many (possibly most) purchasers of a portable music player plan on ripping their own CDs and then discover they can also purchase music online as a bonus. Get rid of the legal right to rip the music you already own, and there's no point in getting the portable player... and not much point in subsequently using iTunes or Rhapsody or Amazon et al.

It's a sickening argument they're making. Let's hope for the big fail.

UPDATE 12/31/2007: Mark Frauenfelder at BoingBoing notes that the RIAA's current position also contradicts their own prior rhetoric and legal arguments in previous cases. Details can be found here.

UPDATE 01/02/2008: Boing Boing notes today (as if it's a retraction) that the individual being sued in the above-referenced case was sued because he put the ripped MP3s in his shared Kazaa folder on his computer, thereby sharing the music with millions of his closest friends.

No shit, Sherlock. Anyone who went and read the story saw what the underlying case is over, and if that was all there was to it, there wouldn't be a story. Unfortunately, it appears the RIAA is going a step further in their arguments in the case, and arguing (as they apparently had an RIAA witness testify in a recent Minnesota case, the already infamous Jammie Thomas case) that the copying is in and of itself a violation).

See, the way you expand the scope of a law is to take a case that's bad for the other side, and you push the margins: if you want to expand the scope of police searches, do it in a case involving pedophiles or terrorists, not one involving Bob The Harmless Pothead or someone engaging in possibly legal conduct (e.g. a defendant who was arrested while attempting to peaceably assert his civil liberties to the arresting officer). If you want to overthrow the pesky "Betamax" case, pick a defendant who is clearly violating copyright law with his P2P sharing, and add, "Oh, by the way, he shouldn't have copied those songs even if it was just for himself; sharing the files was really the second time he stole our intellectual property...."

Is it possible the RIAA argument is being distorted? Sure. Is the fact that the defendant in the case probably violated the law in other ways dispositive of that question? Nope, try again.



7 comments:

Wellsian,  Wednesday, January 2, 2008 at 4:02:00 PM EST  

So mix-tapes are illegal now? This is great, the RIAA is now alienating even those people who still buy CDs legally and rip them to their computer for convenience sake. Way to go, fellas.

It's interesting - in my orientation at Sewanee they warned us about using movies or music which might lead to RIAA action. Yet when the RIAA sent a letter to Harvard (give us the names attached to these IPs, etc.), Harvard wrote them back telling them to go fuck themselves. The bully ran into someone just as big (Harvard is really, really rich - duh) and backed down. This needs to happen in a courtroom, I think.

Eric Wednesday, January 2, 2008 at 8:50:00 PM EST  

Harvard also has a small, up-and-coming law school, and I think one or two of the professors there might dabble in intellectual property law--plus, I'm sure they've graduated one or two students who have maybe dealt with IP in their small private practices (you know, maybe a client wants to start a little small-town business where IP might maybe come up somehow)....

Heh.

But seriously: my impression is that Harvard sent their "fuck you" letter to the RIAA after consulting with the law school faculty. And they certainly consulted the university's general counsel. (How much do you wanna bet they hired a Harvard grad or went with a Harvard-connected firm?) So, in addition to all that money, there was the "Excuse me, do you know who the fuck we are? Wait, wait, here's a hint: what do Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Breyer, Justice Scalia, Justice Souter, and Justice Ginsburg all have in common, other than a tailor and office space?" factor.

Hell, I'd be scared of suing Harvard, too. So the RIAA isn't quite as dumb as they appear--almost as dumb, definitely. But not quite dumb enough to stick their collective johnson in a wood chipper.

MWT Thursday, January 3, 2008 at 4:13:00 AM EST  

Oh to live in a world where right and wrong wasn't decided based on which side has scarier lawyers.

Incidentally, that footer is really annoying. It takes up valuable space without doing anything useful (useful would be if it provided links that I might want to regularly use).

Eric Thursday, January 3, 2008 at 5:44:00 PM EST  

I'll think about the footer: I sort of like it aesthetically, myself, and it does contain the copyright/licensing information of the template designers (if I remove the footer, I'd need to put the design info somewhere else in the page--perhaps in a non-floating footer). But I also see where it could be annoying (I view the blog in 1440x900 maximized, and it may be less annoying in that format).

I might also look at whether I can make it a little smaller, if that would help, when I have a chance to try to further decrypt the HTML.

I probably won't change templates again for awhile, though that's also an option.

Anyway, I hope it's not so off-putting as to keep you from coming around!

Eric Thursday, January 3, 2008 at 6:07:00 PM EST  

Hm... yeah, I see that if the window is resized, the footer takes up more or less space. I'll ponder that, maybe reconsider the theme (though I really do think that floating bar makes for a kinda cool border--it's probably all those Storm Thorgerson album covers I grew up with... like this one or this one.

Eric Thursday, January 3, 2008 at 6:17:00 PM EST  

It looks like the floating footer was also blocking access to some subscription links at the foot of the page. I've changed it to a non-floating footer--which I have to admit I don't much like the look of--but it's a bit more practical.

Maybe I'll be looking at other themes sooner than I thought....

MWT Thursday, January 3, 2008 at 8:32:00 PM EST  

Ahhh... much better. :)

On my screen it's 4 well-padded lines and thus very tall, because I'm blind and need huge fonts and sizes for everything.

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