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Fair use under direct attack in Atlantic v. Howell

In a legal brief filed for Atlantic v. Howell, the RIAA once again stated its distaste for users who copy CDs for personal, private use.

The RIAA wrote that “it is undisputed that Defendant possessed unauthorized copies” – referring to the Howell’s collection of mp3 files made from their own CDs – and noted that “once Defendant converted Plaintiffs' recordings into the compressed .mp3 format and they are in his shared folder, they are no longer the authorized copies.”

The Judge’s question was, “Does the record in this case show that Defendant Howell possessed an ‘unlawful copy’ of the Plaintiff's copyrighted material, and that he actually disseminated that copy to the public?”

Similar sentiments were heard in testimony leading up to the conclusion of Capitol Records v. Jammie Thomas, where Sony BMG’s head of litigation equated Fair Use to stealing and testified that copying music for personal use is just “a nice way of saying ‘steals just one copy.’”

Admittedly, the wording in its Atlantic v. Howell brief is vague and its exact message unclear. Judging purely on the statements expressed in its brief for Atlantic v. Howell, opinion seems divided on the true intent: does ripping music to a computer for personal use produce an unlawful copy? Or is the act of placing said music into a shared folder that makes it unlawful? As the RIAA chose to use the word “unauthorized” instead of “unlawful,” interpretation is further complicated; “unauthorized” and “unlawful” have two very different legal definitions, and many think that the RIAA did not even answer the Judge Wake’s question.

The piracy section on the RIAA’s website offers further confusion, with its legal section making no mention of the legalities of “ripping.” The closest analogue to ripping would be directly copying music to a CD-R, which says that while users have “no legal ‘right’” they can generally avoid legal confrontation by making sure said music is only copied for personal use.

An official response from the District Court will likely hinge on the RIAA’s distinction between “unauthorized” and “unlawful,” and whether or not it feels Howell is liable for ripping the CDs themselves, or placing them in a p2p client’s shared folder.

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RE: Microsoft?
By Etern205 on 12/17/2007 6:54:03 PM , Rating: 1
Even if WMP does not include ripping function. People will still find another way. So suing M$ does not work.

RE: Microsoft?
By Oregonian2 on 12/17/2007 8:32:21 PM , Rating: 2
I think you're missing the sarcasm in the sue Microsoft comment. Point being that Microsoft probably wouldn't provide the facility on the computers of it's five zillion customers worldwide if it were illegal and open themselves to be sued by the RIAA for a few million dollars per-customer which I'm sure they fear tremendously (hint: more sarcasm :-).

RE: Microsoft?
By PandaBear on 12/17/2007 9:04:54 PM , Rating: 2
MS have way too many lawyers and cash to lose a trial with RIAA, RIAA wouldn't dare to fvck with MS.

RE: Microsoft?
By Oregonian2 on 12/18/2007 1:50:23 PM , Rating: 2
Most of the RIAA major members aren't US companies, and are heavily European, so the RIAA would probably get the help of the EU who likes to sue MS.

RE: Microsoft?
By mindless1 on 12/21/2007 5:29:21 AM , Rating: 2
There's a legitimate use for ripping non-copyrighted material and there is no DRM circumvention so MS has nothing to worry about there.

"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." -- Sony BMG attorney Jennifer Pariser
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