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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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By GaryJohnson on 12/17/2007 10:57:05 PM , Rating: 5
What if I remeber part of the movie and play it back in my head at a later date, after I've sold the movie, returned it to the place I rented it from, or saw it in a theatre.

My brain violates the DMCA!


By feraltoad on 12/18/2007 5:59:01 AM , Rating: 5
That's why the RIAA recommends DRM Bytes Breakfast Cereal. The white marshmallows are Trilafon (anti-nausea drug) so you can stomach their bulls#it, the blue ones are Valium so you don't care, and the green ones are, well I don't know, but there delicious.

"Oh No! The kids are after me over-valued product they are no longer willing to buy on me out-moded sales model!"


By 1078feba on 12/18/2007 10:28:43 AM , Rating: 2
I don't think you're too far off on that scenario. When it comes to the RIAA and the like, the one thought I keep in the back of mind is that the RIAA sees every single use of copyrighted musical material as a missed revenue opportunity.

After one understands that, every one of their actions make sense from their point of view. "Draconian" as an adjective merely scratches the surface.


By rcc on 12/18/2007 2:10:19 PM , Rating: 3
lol, your brain violates common sense, so why not the DMCA?

: )


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