Can the RIAA sue individuals for copyright infringement? Yes, obviously they are. The RIAA was apparently of the opinion that lawsuits against children and grandparents potentially costing targets MILLIONS (at the rate of up to $150,000 per infringement) would cow and shame the nation into changing both their behavior and attitudes regarding file sharing. Primarily, it has pissed people off, including those the RIAA thought were on its side, like Republican senators:
- Sen. Norm Coleman said Thursday he will push legislation this year to reduce legal penalties for people who download copyrighted music off the Internet.
Coleman, R-Minn., said current penalties, which range from $750 to $150,000 per downloaded song, are excessive and enough to scare innocent people into settling lawsuits filed by the recording industry.
“I can tell you that $150,000 per song is not reasonable, and that’s technically what you can put in front of somebody,” Coleman said in a conference call with reporters. “That forces people to settle when they may want to fight, but they’re thinking, ‘goodness, gracious, what am I going to face?'”
Coleman said he will also press for changes in federal law to reign in the recording industry’s subpoena power.
The 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act allows the industry to obtain subpoenas, without a judge’s signature, to track and sue people who download songs. Coleman said he would like to allow for some judicial review. [Guardian]
Oops, that wasn’t what we were looking for, was it Cary and Mitch?
Equally importantly, the moves are simply alienating the public, their customers:
- I’m not debating the right of artists and their recording companies to protect copyrighted material, but such a ham-fisted approach leaves me wondering: How could they be so stupid?
Here’s how: They relied on the long-established legal mantra, “protect our intellectual property at any cost,” with little thought to that tactic’s public effects. In the short term, it no doubt will cut Internet theft of copyrighted material. But suing their own customers? A customer base largely made up of cynical teens and twentysomethings already skeptical of hyper-aggressive corporate greed?
It’s a lesson for all lawyers – and their clients: In this media age, legal maneuvers that once worked so well behind courtroom doors can have embarrassing long-term consequences now that they’re under the glare of the public spotlight.
….Some of the country’s best lawyers have a tin ear about the public impact of their legal strategies, probably because most were trained in the 1970s or early 1980s – before 24-hour cable news, the Internet and the explosion of business and legal news coverage. In today’s media-saturated environment, their education and experience are as outdated as rotary phones.
But the smart ones learn fast. Lawyers and clients are realizing that if a legal team isn’t considering public opinion as well as the law, it is doing a grave disservice to itself, its clients and the case. [USA Today]
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