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RIAA File Sharer Assault Roundup

Cynthia Webb has it all in the Washington Post:

    The Recording Industry Association of America yesterday announced that it will start patrolling the Internet today for evidence to use against individual peer-to-peer network users and other file swappers suspected of trading “substantial” amounts of copyrighted music online. Expect users of KaZaa, Morpheus and Grokster, three of the most popular file-swapping sites, to be prime targets.

The RIAA’s announcement says this:

    Starting tomorrow, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) will begin gathering evidence and preparing lawsuits against individual computer users who are illegally offering to “share” substantial amounts of copyrighted music over peer-to-peer networks. In making the announcement, the music industry cited its multi-year effort to educate the public about the illegality of unauthorized downloading, and underscored the fact that major music companies have made vast catalogues of music available to dozens of services to help create legitimate, high quality and inexpensive alternatives to online piracy.

    “The law is clear and the message to those who are distributing substantial quantities of music online should be equally clear — this activity is illegal, you are not anonymous when you do it, and engaging in it can have real consequences,” said RIAA president Cary Sherman. “We’d much rather spend time making music then dealing with legal issues in courtrooms. But we cannot stand by while piracy takes a devastating toll on artists, musicians, songwriters, retailers and everyone in the music industry.”

    The RIAA expects to use the data it collects as the basis for filing what could ultimately be thousands of lawsuits charging individual peer-to-peer music distributors with copyright infringement. The first round of suits could take place as early as mid-August.

    Over the past year, the industry has responded to consumer demand by making its music available to a wide range of authorized online subscription, streaming and download services that make it easier than ever for fans to get music legally and inexpensively on the Internet. Moreover, these services offer music reliably, in the highest sound quality, and without the risks of exposure to viruses or other undesirable material.

    Federal law and the federal courts have been quite clear on what is not legal. It is illegal to make available for download copyrighted works without permission of the copyright owner. Court decisions have affirmed this as well. In the recent Grokster decision, for example, the court confirmed that the users of that system were guilty of copyright infringement. And in last year’s Aimster decision, the judge wrote that the idea that “ongoing, massive, and unauthorized distribution and copying of copyrighted works somehow constitutes ‘personal use’ is specious and unsupported.”

    “Once we begin our evidence-gathering process, any individual computer user who continues to offer music illegally to millions of others will run the very real risk of facing legal action in the form of civil lawsuits that will cost violators thousands of dollars and potentially subject them to criminal prosecution,” said Sherman.

    To gather evidence against P2P users who make illegal downloading possible, the RIAA will be using software that scans the public directories available to any user of a peer-to-peer network. These directories, which allow users to find the material they are looking for, list all the files that other users of the network are currently offering to distribute. When the software finds a user who is offering to distribute copyrighted music files, it downloads some of the infringing files, along with the date and time it accessed the files.

    Additional information that is publicly available from these systems allows the RIAA to then identify their Internet Service Provider (ISP). The RIAA can then serve a subpoena on the ISP requesting the name and address of the individual whose account was being used to distribute copyrighted music. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), ISPs must provide copyright holders with such information when there is reason to believe copyrights are being infringed. Almost all ISPs disclose this obligation in the User’s Terms of Service.

    Music industry leaders, along with an unprecedented coalition of other groups like the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA), the Country Music Association, the Gospel Music Association, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), American Federation of Musicians, songwriters, recording artists, retailers, and record companies have been educating music fans that the epidemic of illegal file sharing not only robs songwriters and recording artists of their livelihoods, it also undermines the future of music itself by depriving the industry of the resources it needs to find and develop new talent. In addition, it threatens the jobs of tens of thousands of less celebrated people in the music industry, from engineers and technicians to warehouse workers and record store clerks.

    This message has been conveyed to the public in a series of print and broadcast ads featuring top recording artists. And, in the past two months, millions of Instant Messages were sent directly to infringers on the Kazaa and Grokster peer-to-peer file-sharing networks.

And then are are various inspiring words from an assortment of artist-type turd burglars.

Back to Cynthia’s roundup – she quotes a Washington Post story:

    The RIAA is hoping its online sweep and legal actions will put the brakes on rampant file sharing. The music industry claims to have lost millions of dollars in CD sales to file swapping from the Internet. “We’d much rather spend time making music then dealing with legal issues in courtrooms. But we cannot stand by while piracy takes a devastating toll on artists, musicians, songwriters, retailers and everyone in the music industry,” Sherman said in a statement yesterday.

    Just how extensive will the RIAA campaign be? “We have no hard and fast rules about how many files you have to be distributing” to be targeted in the RIAA sweep, Sherman said, according to washingtonpost.com. “Any individual computer user who continues to steal music will face the very real risk of having to face the music.” The Washington Post provided details of how the RIAA plans to play detective online: “The RIAA said it would use the public directories of peer-to-peer software programs and issue subpoenas to Internet service providers to track down people trading music files.” A number of media outlets noted that the RIAA said it will begin filing suits within the next two months.

San Jose Mercury News:

    A recent federal district court ruling all but assured the strategy to target individuals, after a judge in Los Angeles found that the companies behind popular file-sharing software like Morpheus and Grokster could not be held liable for illegal activities of their users,” the paper said. “That April ruling is under appeal. The recording industry has been laying the legal groundwork for this new, more personal assault on Internet music piracy for more than a year. It subpoenaed Verizon Internet Services in July for the name of a individual subscriber accused of downloading more than 600 songs via Kazaa. When Verizon refused, the RIAA successfully compelled the disclosure through federal court. That case, while still under appeal, established the recording industry’s right to use subpoena power granted under federal copyright law to identify suspected copyright infringers.

CNET:

    ISPs are bracing for what Verizon Vice President Sarah Deutsch called ‘an avalanche of subpoenas,’ as the labels turn to service providers to help them identify file swappers … She said there’s no mechanism in place under the subpoena process to ensure that customers aren’t mistakenly targeted or that their personal information is only used for the purposes of the lawsuit. She also worries that other copyright holders might follow the RIAA’s lead, putting ISPs in the middle of the copyright debate and forcing them to spend time and money processing thousands of requests to identify subscribers who haven’t been proven guilty of anything.

Fred von Lohman in the NY Times:

    We think it’s a particularly outrageous and ill-advised strategy. Suing your best customer is always a bad idea. What we need is a way to better pay artists and to make file sharing legal.” On EFF’s Web site, the group calls for action — against the RIAA’s legal dragnet. “At a time when more Americans are using file-sharing software than voted for President Bush, more lawsuits are simply not the answer. It’s time to get artists paid and make file-sharing legal. EFF calls on Congress to hold hearings immediately on alternatives to the RIAA’s litigation campaign against the American public,” Lohmann said in a statement.

Washington Post on users going underground:

    Swapping files online, by all accounts, is more popular than ever. In the past six months alone, no fewer than 50 new versions of ‘peer-to-peer,’ or P2P file-trading software programs have emerged on the Internet. Unlike some of the most popular services like Kazaa and Grokster, many of them try to shield the identities of their users with password-protected networks, encryption and other tools,” the article said, many in an effort to thwart the RIAA. “People who prefer downloading illegally copied files are jumping ship from the big-name networks in favor of these tightly knit communities, said Jorge Gonzalez, co-founder of Zeropaid.com, a Web forum for P2P enthusiasts.

While this appears to be a very dark day for P2P users, this may be exactly the straw that breaks the camel’s back and ensures that changes are made to the DMCA, and that the public at large rebels against the RIAA. Can you say boycott?

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: Twitter@amhaunted, Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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