RIAA the Punching-Bag

by on January 2, 2008 · 0 comments

Over the slow holiday season, the Internet has been alight with outrage over the Recording Industry of America’s argument in a file-sharing case that, per the Washington Post, “it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.”

But as copyright expert William Paltry explains, it simply ain’t so:

[T]he RIAA is being unfairly maligned. I have read the brief (and you can too here). On page 15 of the brief, we find the flashpoint: “Once Defendant converted Plaintiffs’ recordings into the compressed .mp3 format AND they are in his shared folder, they are no longer the authorized copies distributed by Plaintiffs.”

I have capitalized the word “and” because it is here that the RIAA is making the point that placing the mp3 files into the share folder is what makes the copy unauthorized. The RIAA is not saying that the mere format copying of a CD to an mp3 file that resides only on one’s hard drive and is never shared is infringement. This is a huge distinction…

An interesting point from Joel Johnson:

That it seems possible that the RIAA would go after people for ripped CDs says a lot about the way most people—including the Washington Post, apparently—view the organization…

This is true, but is any other course imaginable? CD sales, and record company profits, seem to be in free-fall, and it’s beyond credulity at this point to argue that online file-sharing isn’t, at least to a significant extent, to blame. Why would an industry fade without a struggle?

As the recording industry grasps desperately for revenues, it is perhaps inevitable that it will increasingly clash with record buyers, musicians, and the public. So expect more alarmism, more yellow journalism, and greater vitriol from the “copyfighters” and their allies and expect (probably) for all this to be used as further leverage to push “open culture” policies, however tenuous their connection to the source of conflict, the collateral damage of an industry’s slow collapse–which itself is no new or unique thing.

In other words, expect a lot more of these kind of stories in 2008. John Tierney’s article yesterday on the sociology climate change is a better explanation than most as to why.

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