- The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sued four students on April 3 for allegedly operating music-sharing Web sites, accusing them of enabling large-scale copyright theft. Although the RIAA initially asked for $98 billion in damages, it settled the case on May 1, with the four students paying fines ranging from $12,000 to $17,500.
Marking another victory for the recording industry, a federal judge on April 24 ordered Verizon Communications to reveal the names of two Internet subscribers accused of illegally trading music online. Since that decision, Verizon received subpoenas for information on two more Internet subscribers.
Verizon turned over the names of its four Internet subscribers on June 5 after the U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C. rejected the telecom company’s request for a stay while it appeals the lower court decision. Verizon plans to appeal that ruling.
Meanwhile, on April 25, a federal judge in Los Angeles delivered a setback to the entertainment industry by dismissing lawsuits against two file-swapping services, Streamcast Networks and Grokster. Judge Stephen Wilson ruled that the two services were not liable for copyright violations that may have occurred while people were using their software.
Although the ruling does not legalize the downloading of copyrighted media online, it shields companies that provide peer-to-peer software from liability for the actions of their users.
Does the entertainment industry has the right to prevent the “sharing” and downloading of digital copyrighted media? What methods should it employ to deter, or stop, the downloading?
Is music sharing tantamount to online theft? Or is it the consumer’s right to have unfettered access to online materials, including copyrighted media? Should online music, film and other media be available for public use?
Two leading experts representing the two sides of the debate answer your questions about consumer rights and media copyrights in the digital age.
The questions asked include:
- If I can go to my local library and check out and copy a CD for free, why can’t I copy a digital CD from an online friend?
Given that distributing a large number of Xerox copies of a book without proper authorization is illegal, why would P2P be any different?
Please explain how the DMCA will or will not impede further technological innovation and scientific research of new media devices? And, does this law violate my fair use rights as a consumer?
Are the RIAA’s “cease-and-desist” notices to alleged Internet pirates a violation of my personal property rights?
How do musicians benefit from the RIAA’s actions against alleged Internet ‘pirates’?
Would music companies consider developing an online service similar to that of Apple’s iTunes or develop their own P2P networks?
Does the U.S. Constitution rely on patent and copyright laws as way to advance the arts and sciences, or to protect business interests?
Is it illegal to download the MP3 version of a song that I have already purchased?
Would outlawing anti-copyright devices in theory extend copyright terms for eternity?