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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 mmntech on 12/17/2007 6:58:40 PM , Rating: 3
Can we include Sony in this as well, who enables CD ripping on their computers and PS3s, who's devision Sony BMG is a RIAA member. Sony should sue themselves.

Fortunately, there's nothing RIAA can do about this. It's patent infringement to put DRM on CDs since it violates Phillips Redbook Audio. If it doesn't bare the "Compact Disc: Digital Audio" logo, don't buy it. There's no way to enforce it either unless they want to sue everybody who owns or makes computers and MP3 players. The RIAA would be a huge joke if they didn't go around threatening people all the time.

RE: Microsoft?
By InternetGeek on 12/17/2007 7:04:36 PM , Rating: 2
I say we just start selling our CDs quite cheap and rip the hell out of them. That way RIAA won't get money from the existant libraries, and won't get money out of the digital downloads as people don't buy their stuff.

We can have them in a stranglehold in no time.

RE: Microsoft?
By Rookierookie on 12/17/2007 7:04:51 PM , Rating: 2
The RIAA would be a huge joke if they didn't go around threatening people all the time.

What are they now - a very huge joke?

RE: Microsoft?
By Slaimus on 12/17/2007 7:05:53 PM , Rating: 2
"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home
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