BusinessWeek, as mainstream and pro-business a publication as you are likely to find, says the RIAA’s continued reign of legal terror is stupid and counterproductive:
- The music file-swapping masses got a fresh jolt of fear on Jan. 21 when the Recording Industry Association of America filed 532 lawsuits against alleged copyright infringers for downloading or sharing pirated tunes on the Internet. The suits made good on the RIAA’s promise in December not to skip a beat in its legal war against music piracy.
That promise came after a U.S. appeals court in Washington, D.C., in December found that a federal law the RIAA used to force Internet service providers to cough up the identities of alleged file swappers is unconstitutional. The court ruled, essentially, that the provision violated due process.
In response, the RIAA shifted its attack to a more cumbersome form of lawsuits. In these so-called John Doe suits, RIAA lawyers file against an Internet protocol address (an ID that every computer connected to the Net has) that they believe is attached to a computer engaged in illegal file trading. Should the court deem the suit worthy of consideration, then the ISP used by that computer to access the Net could be forced to reveal the subscriber’s identity.
….The recording industry’s hardball tactics have fueled a technological shift that’ll make it nearly impossible to pursue file swappers in the future.
How so? The culture of fear and loathing that the RIAA has created is starting to put encryption on the must-have list of every Joe and Jane Internet user. The results will be wide-ranging and will pose a threat to the movie industry, the software industry, and just about any other industry involved with the creation and sale of intellectual property.
….By ripping off the thin veil of anonymity and hitting hundreds of users for thousands of dollars per case in settlement costs, the RIAA has inspired the most tangible fear yet seen among Web users — something neither credit-card thieves, nor hackers, nor even the U.S. government has managed to inspire.
….This atmosphere has now led to a new reality where encryption becomes expected and pervasive. While encrypted P2P file-sharing networks remain less polished and less popular than the unencrypted variety, the masses will inevitably switch to those protected networks if the RIAA continues to sue.
CODE CRACKERS. Then it’ll have a lot of trouble because lawyers won’t be enough. The industry group will need cryptographers and security experts to break the protocols used for cloaking the traffic in order to merely determine whether a song traveling on the Blubster, FreeNet, BitTorrent, or Earth Station 5 P2P network is pirated or an amateur recording with no copyright restrictions.
….Should Microsoft (MSFT ), Intel (INTC ), and others succeed in building a generation of computers with copyright controls built into the core operating system or onto the chips, then encryption will hardly help a pirate when an MP3 won’t launch without a valid digital certificate. That scenario, however, remains highly unlikely as the complications of accurately categorizing and reading each individuals’ copyrighted content, from old CDs to iTunes purchased online, is daunting at the least.
In the end, large chunks of computing and the Internet will go behind a much stronger curtain of anonymity, and the pirates will remain untouchable underground — thanks to the RIAA’s misguided legal missiles.
Not to mention the effects of open wireless Internet access, which is untraceable. There is only one solution: some form of blanket licensing that allows the free exchange of copyrighted material.