Wednesday , July 24 2024

RIAA – Making Friends and Creating Smiles

Our friends at the RIAA seem hell-bent on ramming their worldview down every customer, former customer, or potential customer’s throat. I see this as a problem from a marketing, customer service and legal standpoint since their methods infringe upon the privacy and civil liberties of everyone who uses the Internet, now more than half the country.

Some of the techniques the RIAA is using to thwart “piracy” over the Internet came out yesterday in court papers:

    The disclosures were included in court papers filed against a Brooklyn woman fighting efforts to identify her for allegedly sharing nearly 1,000 songs over the Internet. The recording industry disputed her defense that songs on her family’s computer were from compact discs she had legally purchased.

    ….Comparing the Brooklyn woman to a shoplifter, the RIAA told U.S. Magistrate John M. Facciola that she was “not an innocent or accidental infringer” and described her lawyer’s claims otherwise as “shockingly misleading.” The RIAA papers were filed in Washington overnight Tuesday and made available by the court Wednesday.

    The woman’s lawyer, Daniel N. Ballard of Sacramento, Calif., said the music industry’s latest argument was “merely a smokescreen to divert attention” from the related issue of whether her Internet provider, Verizon Internet Services Inc., must turn over her identity under a copyright subpoena.

    “You cannot bypass people’s constitutional rights to privacy, due process and anonymous association to identify an alleged infringer,” Ballard said.

    Ballard has asked the court to delay any ruling for two weeks while he prepares detailed arguments, and he noted that his client – identified only as “nycfashiongirl” – has already removed the file-sharing software from her family’s computer.

    ….The RIAA’s latest court papers describe in unprecedented detail some sophisticated forensic techniques used by its investigators. These disclosures were even more detailed than answers the RIAA provided weeks ago at the request of Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., who has promised hearings into the industry’s use of copyright subpoenas to track downloaders.

    For example, the industry disclosed its use of a library of digital fingerprints, called “hashes,” that it said can uniquely identify MP3 music files that had been traded on the Napster service as far back as May 2000. Examining hashes is commonly used by the FBI and other computer investigators in hacker cases.

    By comparing the fingerprints of music files on a person’s computer against its library, the RIAA believes it can determine in some cases whether someone recorded a song from a legally purchased CD or downloaded it from someone else over the Internet.

    Copyright lawyers said it remains unresolved whether consumers can legally download copies of songs on a CD they purchased rather than making digital copies themselves. But finding MP3 music files that precisely match copies that have been traded online could be evidence a person participated in file-sharing services. [AP]

. Perhaps, but that doesn’t change the fact that if someone legally owns a recording they may transfer it to another format for personal use. And I see no difference between making the transfer oneself (which takes time and resources) and obtaining the transferred file from elsewhere. In other words, if I own the CD, it’s perfectly legit to obtain an MP3 of a song on the CD from someone else, over the Internet or otherwise. The presumed fact that this woman did not rip the MP3’s herself doesn’t mean she doesn’t own the CDs.

The AP story concludes:

    The 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act permits music companies to force Internet providers to turn over the names of suspected music pirates upon subpoena from any U.S. District Court clerk’s office, without a judge’s signature required.

That is yet another reason – among many – why the DMCA is terrible law.

Bless them, the EFF is keeping score of RIAA subpoenas with PACER records, through last Friday — 1145 subpoenas:

    6 New York University
    4 Bentley College
    3 Boston College (dismissed)
    2 Northeastern University
    1 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (dismissed)
    1 Loyola University Chicago
    1 Loyola Marymount University
    1 DePaul University
    1 Columbia University
    1 Boston University

    ISP Recipients (including unis):
    372 Comcast Cable Communications, Inc.
    148 Time Warner Cable
    143 SBC
    108 SBC Internet Communications, Inc.
    87 Verizon Internet Services, Inc.
    85 Charter Communications, Inc.
    32 RCN Corporation
    32 Adelphia Communications Corporation
    26 Cox Communications, Inc.
    20 GTE.Net LLC (d/b/a Verizon Internet Solutions) Verizon Avenue
    Corporation Verizon Media Ventures, In
    12 EarthLink, Inc.
    7 Mediacom Communications Corporation
    6 Verizon Internet Services, Inc. and GTE.Net LLC (d/b/a
    Verizon Internet Solutions)
    6 New York University
    6 InterQuest Communications
    5 LLC (d/b/a Verizon Internet Solutions)
    4 Earthlink, Inc.
    4 Bentley College Academic Technology Center
    3 Verizon lnternet Services, Inc.
    3 Insight Midwest, L.P.
    3 Boston College
    2 Verizon Media Ventures Inc.
    2 Sprint
    2 San Bruno Municipal Cable
    2 Northeastern University
    2 CSC Holdings, Inc.
    2 CenturyTel Internet Services, LLC
    2 America Online, Inc.
    1 Verizon Avenue Corporation
    1 University of Southern California
    1 Speakeasy, Inc.
    1 Qwest Communications Corporation
    1 Pacific Bell lnternet
    1 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    1 Loyola University Chicago
    1 Loyola Marymount University
    1 Greenville Electric Utility System (GEUS)
    1 DePaul University
    1 Columbia University
    1 Boston University
    1 BlueMarble Telecom, LLC
    1 Inc.
    1 AT&T Worldnet Service
    1 Armstrong Cable Services
    1 America Online
    1 Adelphia

    Filesharing Service:
    1058 KaZaA
    28 iMesh
    18 Grokster
    13 Gnutella (Bearshare)
    11 MP2P (Blubster & Piolet)
    10 Gnutella (Limewire)
    4 (blank)
    2 Gnutella (Shareaza)
    1 Bearshare

And customers aren’t the only people who feel violated by the RIAA: small webcasters hate them too:

    A group of small Webcasters on Wednesday filed an antitrust suit against the Recording Industry Association of America, alleging that the trade association tried to push independent music stations offline.
    The Webcaster Alliance has been threatening to sue the RIAA for months, after Congress ratified royalty rates for Internet radio stations that many small operators said will drive them out of business. The existing rates were negotiated between a small, unrepresentative group of Webcasters and the RIAA and are aimed at eliminating competition, the alliance members said.

    “We have watched the RIAA’s actions…(which) have the effect of wiping out an entire industry of independent Webcasters who represent freedom of choice and diversity for Internet radio listeners,” Ann Gabriel, president of the Webcaster Alliance, said in a statement. “It is time for the RIAA to be held accountable for years of manipulating an entire industry in order to stifle the growth of independent music and control Internet content and distribution channels.”

    ….In June 2002, the Library of Congress finally set the rate at about 0.07 of a cent per song, with the fees retroactive to 1998. Small companies protested, saying that rate would put them out of business. Congress intervened, and after several start-and-stop initiatives, passed a bill that’s aimed at protecting small Net stations.

    ….Some Webcasters found the new model better, but others–particularly those who had been left out of the negotiations–cried foul. They sought a new agreement with the RIAA, but the record label group said it had already settled the issue.

    Saying they lacked any other avenue, the alliance members threatened to sue, a promise culminating in Wednesday’s lawsuit.

    The Webcaster Alliance suit alleges that the big record companies and the RIAA conspired with each other and ultimately with the Voice of Webcasters group to eliminate small Net radio stations that play independent music. [CNET]

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,, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

Check Also

header image

SXSW 2024: The Science and Craft of Storytelling

Human beings tell stories. It’s what makes us different. At SXSW 2024, Cheryl Hauser explained what it takes to be a great storyteller.