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“You can be assured I will NEVER buy a RIAA cd again”

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Yes, you can rightfully argue that ignorance of the law is no excuse: as citizens we each have the responsibility to know what the rules are. But the main rules are just common sense: don’t kill anyone who isn’t trying to kill you, don’t beat people up, don’t steal, don’t threaten them in a effort to get money out of them. Hmm – that last one sounds familiar. And what about stealing? Isn’t file sharing stealing? No, actually it’s a civil violation of copyright law – at worst.

With that in mind, here’s a letter from an accused file sharer:

    I feel very strange that this whole thing is happening to me. I have only had high speed internet for about 4-5 months now. I am the type of person that doesn’t watch the news, I hardly watch television, I can’t stand all of the negativity and bias. I am a pediatric intensive care nurse and I deal with life and death situations every day and do not need to watch the stuff on tv for excitement.

    I haven’t really even been on my computer too often and haven’t even burned my own cds. I work in a small area in my hospital and because of the severe nursing shortage I have been filling in on the night shift. I was picked because of the amount of songs that I have downloaded, but I alone haven’t downloaded all of the songs.

    I allow a lot of people access to my computer, my neighbors have a key to my house, their son uses my computer, I have had a few different roommates that don’t have their own computers and I also allow my sister to use my computer. I feel like many of the other people sued. I was ignorant to the copyright laws and the usage of the p2p sites. I was just some person that wanted to listen to music on my computer, most of the songs I downloaded I already own on cd and I couldn’t figure out how to listen to them from my computer.

    I feel as though I am being harassed and made an example of and I am infuriated. I don’t make a lot of money, I am single and I am overwhelmed at the enormity of the RIAA and what they could do to my life financially. I am so sad I wish that I could fight these people but I am going to have to settle out of court. I will have to charge or make payments on the settlement, right now they are saying no less that 3,000, but I am going to try and negotiate a lower settlement.

    I am currently out of work on disability and have many other more important issues to deal with in life than some executives at the RIAA not receiving their mercedes or vacation bonus this year and suing me for it….You can be assured I will NEVER buy a RIAA cd again.

Does this strike you as reasonable? It’s just one story from the naked city.

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About Eric Olsen

  • TDavid

    It’s a sad story, yes, but the “I didn’t realize what they were doing” excuse is pretty weak. I think it’s been well publicized that the internet is the virtual equivalent of the wild wild west.

    If anything positive ever comes out of the RIAA’s heavy-handed tactics maybe it will be the publicity over individual responsibility with internet access not being some unimportant or trivial concern. It’s sort of like loaning one’s car to responsible drivers.

  • BB

    Ok, work with me people. Let’s try this on for size. ‘A’ owns a car and ‘B’ pays insurance that allows ‘A’ to drive on the road. ‘A’ gets a speeding ticket but ‘B’ has to pay because he provided ‘A’ with access to the road. Does that make any sense? Or, how about ‘C’ who put gas into the car so that ‘A’ could drive it. Should ‘C’ be fined? We all know the answer to this – the car owner is responsible.

    So let’s look at another example. ‘A’ owns a computer and lets ‘B’ use it if he (or she) agrees to pay for Internet Access (let’s call him the ‘internet provider’). ‘A’ is downloading music and the RIAA sues ‘B’. Is that reasonable? The point I am trying to make should be obvious. The RIAA has no way of knowing who is actually downloading which makes their law suits completely absurd. The RIAA has initiated law suits knowing full well it may have targeted the wrong person. That is the digital equivalent of throwing darts blindfolded with malicious intent.

    So does this mean every computer owner (or internet provider) should have to lock away the computer when they are not using it? And how is that going to work in a large family like mine where several people share the same computer. Is that the world you want to live in? Perhaps in the near future we will be forced to buy computers with digital retina scanners just so the RIAA will know who to sue. If that is the case they had better give huge discounts on their music so we can afford to buy more computers.

    Here is another example. Somebody is wrongfully charged with … let’s say murder and was coereced into confessing. Afterwards they realize they charged the wrong person so they say oops, sorry but at least it sent the message that murder is bad and we are serious about it. Huh?

    When you are suing somebody you had better be darn well sure you have the right person, otherwise the innocent party has the right to counter sue and seek costs as well. The RIAA knows the little people it is suing don’t have the resources to fight back and it is banking on that. It is blatantly abusing the legal process to intimidate ordinary people and get cheap publicity.

    And in my view that stinks!!!

  • Craig Lyndall

    “No, actually it’s a civil violation of copyright law – at worst.”

    Isn’t that exactly what it is? I mean they haven’t put anyone in cuffs yet have they?

    Your downloading is illegal. Using Kazaa to give away music to people who don’t own said music is illegal. Just like making illegal copies of software is illegal.

    Do you think software piracy should be illegal? It is something that is distributed on a disc for a price based on a certain amount of research and development that went into programming the software. Microsoft has every right to sue pirates of software. Why is there such a double standard with music which is distributed on a disc as well?

    Complain about the price of CD’s all you want, just like you can complain about the price of MS Office, but if you download either one without purchasing it, you are violating their rights.

    Finally, in the article up top she said that a lot of the downloaded songs on her computer were things she already owns. That’s fine and that’s why the RIAA is NOT SUING unless you are sharing ie uploading it to someone else.

  • Natalie Davis

    Yes, ultimately the goal is to put file sharers in jail. Earlier this year, the Author, Consumer, and Computer Owner Protection and Security Act of 2003 (ACCOPS) was introduced before Congress; if passed, the bill would target file sharers for criminal prosecution, including jail time. More on this at Open Source Politics.

  • Tom Johnson

    Ignorance of the law has never stood up in court. Copyright laws are really pretty simple at their core: “Did you make it? No. Then it’s not yours.” Anything beyond this starts stretching things and justifying. (Please, let’s leave the issues associated with fair-use out of this – you all know exactly what I’m talking about here.) Even if she doesn’t watch TV or read the newspaper (and I think anyone who doesn’t at least keep up with the news is ridiculously stupid) she still should know what “copyrighted” means.

  • BB

    Please let me correct an obvious misunderstanding here. Proponents like myself who are against the RIAA law suits are not condoning the theft of music or anything else for that matter. We have made that quite clear. To quote John Lennon – “All we are saying” is that the methods of the RIAA are unacceptable, and the end does not justify the means.

  • Eric Olsen

    Here’s the problem: as I said, I don’t think ignorance of the law is a good alibi, but how many people, even reasonably intelligent and well-informed people, more or less trusting that using tools – and that’s all we’retalking about, the use of tools – the way they are obviously meant to be used will not subject us to potential damages in the millions or billions of dollars. Something is very much askew here and the whole system needs to be fixed. None of this equipment, software, Internet access, is even labeled “use this for this, this and this, but not for this, that and the other thing.” there is fault all the way around – that’s why i think the whole system needs to be retooled.

  • TDavid

    Eric – System? the computer is a tool, like a hammer. There is personal responsibility for the proper use of tools.

    We don’t need any more “systems” by government or any other group to deal with personal responsibility. Why do you think we do? Or am I totally misunderstanding your use of the word system?

    Part of the reason the judicial system is so fouled up, IMO, is because a growing number of people are uneducated or undereducated and do not apply the right amount of common sense.

    Therefore the only system we should be seeking to improve, IMO, is the educational system. This will help to ensure a future of a higher percentage of people who act and/or at least possess more intelligence.

    It might form as a deterrent to make examples out of some of these hardcore hackers, mass spammers and virus developers. It seems like a lot of these degenerates are being slapped on the wrist.

    As I said above, the one and possibly only good thing coming out of the RIAA’s stormtrooping could be the awareness campaign they are producing both directly and indirectly.

    I’m totally against the government, any government, though trying to regulate computing activity.

  • TDavid

    I should have said: “hardcore malicious hackers” in my post above. Nothing wrong with hackers in the benevolent sense. Hopefully, I’m not misunderstood by those types of hackers.

  • BB

    At least part of the problem is in the marketing of computers. Most hardcore users such as myself use it as a work tool. But the vast majority of people out there only see it as an entertainment system, a convenience for online banking or an online diary, etc. They do not see it as a tool or understand its potential for criminal acts. The fault rests with the industry for promoting it as a convenient fun station, and it will have to change its marketing strategy rather than rely on the RIAA’s thugs to educate the public.

  • Craig Lyndall

    “The fault rests with the industry for promoting it as a convenient fun station…”

    Whatever you do, don’t blame yourself.

    Columbine was Marylin Manson’s fault.
    In fact all school shootings are the result of violent video games.

    Yeah, right. Look in the mirror and blame the right person.

  • BB

    Oh Craig don’t be so cynical. It doesn’t look good on you. If you wish to quote me please be kind enough to retain its context – e.g. “at least PART of the problem”.

  • Craig Lyndall

    I am much more rational than that came off. Really. I am…

  • BB

    Humility looks much better on you bro 😉

  • vargas

    I really don’t give flying f*** about outdated copyright laws. If it’s available to share I say take and to hell with the RIAA. I hope file sharing puts the music industry out of business. Musicians don’t need them anymore anyway.