Tag Archives: RIAA

Music downloaders 1, RIAA 0

Diego Glusberg ’11 sends in this article about the RIAA abandoning its efforts to use lawsuits as a deterrent to people sharing copyright-protected music:

The move ends a controversial program that saw the Recording Industry Association of America sue about 35,000 people since 2003 for swapping songs online. Because of high legal costs for defenders, virtually all of those hit with lawsuits settled, on average for around $3,500. The association’s legal costs, in the meantime, exceeded the settlement money it brought in.

The association said Friday that it stopped sending out new lawsuits and warnings in August, and then agreed with several leading U.S. Internet service providers, without naming which ones, to notify alleged illegal file-sharers and cut off service if they failed to stop.

“We’re at a point where there’s a sense of comfort that we can replace one form of deterrent with another form of deterrent,” said RIAA Chairman and Chief Executive Mitch Bainwol. “Filing lawsuits as a strategy to deal with a big problem was not our first choice five years ago.”

The new notification program is also more efficient, he said, having sent out more notices in the few months since it started than in the five years of the lawsuit campaign.

The group says it will still continue to litigate outstanding cases, most of which are in the pre-lawsuit warning stage, but some of which are before the courts.

Chicago Sun-Times: “Music industry drops effort to to sue song swappers”

[Edit by Sam 12/22/08, 1:06AM] There’s an interview on Ars Technica about this with RIAA president Cary Sherman in which he either answers or avoids some of the questions about this. As usual when dealing with the RIAA, everything said should be taken with plenty of salt.

Harvard Law Professors to RIAA: Take a Hike

June’s newsletter from Havard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society featured this response to the RIAA authored by Professors Charles Nesson and John Palfrey:

Recently, the president of the Recording Industry Association of America, Cary Sherman, wrote to Harvard to challenge the university administration to stop acting as a “passive conduit” for students downloading music. We agree. Harvard and the 22 universities to which the RIAA has sent “pre-litigation notices” ought to take strong, direct action…and tell the RIAA to take a hike.

This Spring, 1,200 pre-litigation letters arrived unannounced at universities across the country. The RIAA promises more will follow. These letters tell the university which students the RIAA plans on suing, identifying the students only by their IP addresses, the “license plates” of Internet connections. Because the RIAA does not know the names behind the IP addresses, the letters ask the universities to deliver the notices to the proper students, rather than relying upon the ordinary legal mechanisms.

Universities should have no part in this extraordinary process. The RIAA’s charter is to promote the financial interests of its corporate members – even if that means preserving an obsolete business model for its members. The university’s charter is quite different. Harvard’s charter reflects the purposes for which it was founded in 1636: “The advancement of all good literature, arts, and sciences; the advancement and education of youth in all manner of good literature, arts, and sciences; and all other necessary provisions that may conduce to the education of the … youth of this country….”

The university strives to create knowledge, to open the minds of students to that knowledge, and to enable students to take best advantage of their educational opportunities. The university has no legal obligation to deliver the RIAA’s messages. It should do so only if it believes that’s consonant with the university’s mission.

We believe it is not.

Universities are special places, set off in time and space for students to have an opportunity most will not again have: to learn together in a community that cherishes openness above all else. If the university is perceived as doing the bidding of any particular industry, the message we’re sending to students is that the university is willing to let commercial interests intrude.

Of course there are times when that intrusion is warranted. The horror of Virginia Tech is on all our minds and in our hearts. There are far lesser justifications for allowing the arms of government and commerce to interrupt the secular sanctity of the university’s educational space. But protecting claims of copyright – whether or not legitimate claims – by passing along messages requiring students to pay lump sums to record companies just doesn’t warrant the betrayal of student’s trust and privacy.

The university does have an obligation to teach our students to be good citizens. Good citizens should be accountable for their actions. If our students are breaking the law, they should pay the price. That’s not the issue here. The RIAA has already sued well over 10,000 people, including many students, directly. They seem to be engaging in a classic tactic of the bully facing someone much weaker: threatening such dire consequences that the students settle without the issue going to court. The issue is that the university should not be carrying the industry’s water in bringing lawsuits.

The subtitle of the RIAA’s own press release puts a far more pleasant gloss on this: “New Program Invigorates Campus Conversations About Consequences For Illegal Downloading.”

If the RIAA wants to stimulate conversation, then it should engage in genuine dialogue. Come join us on campus. Come talk to the digital natives who are our students, to the faculty who care about fair intellectual property protections, and to the university counsel and technical teams who manage our strategies and operations in cyberspace. The RIAA should be asking, along with the rest of us, if we can come up with models that reward artists for their work while allowing the maximum circulation and use of their creations, as our Founding Fathers intended.

We should also be discussing the most important issue of all. Universities provide an open space in which every idea can be heard and discussed. Every limitation on the circulation of ideas works directly against the university’s mission. How can we open up more ideas, more works, more conversations, while, of course, preserving the legitimate rights of creators? How can we make the university far more open than it is now? How can universities – just like the RIAA – embrace a digital future and make the most of its opportunities?

Being the unpaid enforcement arm of the provincial interests of the RIAA is no part of the answer to these questions.

Wesleying Summer Lecture Series

Continuing in my typical fashion of bringing you somewhat educational content at times when Wesleyan sees fit to leave us to our own intellectual devices (WHY?), I think I shall start a summer lecture series to go along with my Fight Winter Brain Rot series. I will unimaginatively entitle this Wesleying’s Summer Lecture Series. Mostly, it is to remind our dear Wesleyan that it is so woefully behind the times so far as open learning and web technology goes compared to other peer institutions* but also partly because some of this shit is so fucking cool, I’d be depriving the entirety of the human race assloads of awe and wonder if I were not to share it. Seriously. Ok, maybe that’s going overboard. But I’ll do my best.**


Today’s lecture is entitled Rip, Mix, Burn, Sue given by Edward W. Felton, who describes the lecture as “a layperson’s introduction to the technology/copyright wars.” If you’re interested in the glory of, say, the network or the RIAA’s inane legal bullshit this is a fun watch.

It also has a pretty sweet quote from Mr. Rogers about his feelings on videotaping when advertisers and production studios tried to make VCRs illegal in the 1970’s.

*If you are a member of the Wesleyan administration and are offended by this, please feel welcome to contact me (or any internet-literate person between the ages of 17 and 24) and I’ll fill you in on your low-cost, high-yield options that other schools are already whipping us in–student-run blogs notably an exception.

**As always, if you find something fascinating, send it my way at hwood@wes with some idea of what it is. I’m looking for videos and podcasts (mp3s).

Judge Layeth the Smackdown to the RIAA

You know those mass emails the RIAA resorted to earlier this year notifying college administrators of resident pirates and telling them to turn over their student data? Turns out that’s not so ok according to a US District Court in New Mexico:

It’s the RIAA’s tactic of choice: file John Doe lawsuits, file ex parte applications for discovery, serve the resulting subpoenas on the alleged file-sharer’s ISP to discover the identity of the person to whom the IP address was assigned, and then offer the person fingered by the ISP a chance to settle the copyright infringement claims without a lawsuit. The problem with the approach is that it allows the RIAA to do an end-run around the legal process, as the would-be defendant never gets an opportunity to answer during the John Doe lawsuits and fight the RIAA’s subpoenas.

The RIAA has argued that it would suffer irreparable harm unless immediate discovery was allowed, but Judge Garcia didn’t find that argument convincing. “While the Court does not dispute that infringement of a copyright results in harm, it requires a Coleridgian ‘suspension of disbelief’ to accept that the harm is irreparable, especially when monetary damages can cure any alleged violation,” wrote the judge. “On the other hand, the harm related to disclosure of confidential information in a student or faculty member’s Internet files can be equally harmful.”

Judge Garcia also notes that there is “no reasonable way” to ensure that prospective defendants are made aware of the lawsuits and requests for disclosure—which is exactly how the RIAA wants it. He wants to ensure that the John Does are notified and “are given a reasonable opportunity to intervene in order to stop the disclosure of sensitive information.”

Accordingly, the judge has ordered the record labels and the University of New Mexico to work out an “appropriate process” to ensure that individual Does will be informed that a subpoena has been issued. More importantly, those targeted will be able to respond to such requests to protect their own interests. The order directs the RIAA to contact the University’s counsel, inform them that it is seeking discovery and try to agree on a “fair and reasonable process that would allow Plaintiffs to identify limited information about the subscribers.” If they cannot agree, the court will intervene further. Interestingly enough, PACER shows that in the nearly four weeks since the denial of the RIAA’s order, there has been no further action in the lawsuit. An RIAA spokesperson told Ars Technica that “The court in this decision asked for a specific process, which we will accommodate. But in general, this is something—that is, giving notice—we definitely encourage all ISPs to do.”

This is a significant blow to the RIAA. If other courts decide to follow Judge Garcia’s lead, the litigation process will become a lot more expensive and time-consuming for the RIAA, as the John Doe lawsuits would no longer be simple open-and-shut cases. Those suspected of file-sharing would be able to ensure that their interests are taken into consideration from the beginning of the legal process instead of only learning that they were the target of a lawsuit once they receive a settlement letter.

WTF is the internet?

Dean Mike sent out an all-students-on-campus email today regarding the RIAA’s lawsuit-fest-07, reminding us that illegal filesharing can get us caught. He continued on to quote the ITS computer usage policy.

ITS’ computer usage policy states that, “users must observe intellectual property rights including, in particular, copyright laws as they apply to software and electronic forms of information. For example, running a program which allows illegal sharing of copyrighted music or video is prohibited.”

Uhoh… I can think of lots of things that allow for illegal sharing of copyrighted music or video. Should we be deleting Mac OS X’s Finder and Windows’ explorer.exe?

Save me from myself.

Mixtapes do (not?) a criminal make.

This is ridic:

Three years ago, we were a bit surprised that the RIAA had hired a former director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and jokingly (we thought!) suggested that perhaps the RIAA was getting ready to bust down some doors. Not long after that, we were dismayed to hear that the RIAA had taken to dressing up foot soldiers in uniforms that made them look like they were a part of the FBI or some other law enforcement agency in order to intimidate street vendors. When that wasn’t enough, Hollywood lobbyists pushed to have the FBI play the role of enforcer, even having them raid a school at one point. Now, it looks like the RIAA has a SWAT team at its disposal as well. Apparently a federal SWAT team “assisted” the RIAA in raiding the studio of a DJ in Atlanta.

Yeah. These guys:

Busted down the studio of this guy:

Apparently, the use of such force was sort-of-maybe-necessary, because, as a police officer noted, “In this case, we didn’t find drugs and weapons, but it’s not uncommon for us to find other sorts of contraband when we execute a search warrant.” Oh. Okay.

As one astute commenter noted:
“But your honor, lots of DJs do drugs!”