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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 numbnuts on 12/18/2007 2:31:21 AM , Rating: 2
So where does this leave Windows Media Center & Home Server ?

I wonder if any of these RIAA people actually own any disc's, I've got >1000 having them ripped on to my PC is only way of managing them, and finding the one you want (the discs themselves are in boxes in the attic).

I have my CD's in a folder on my hard drive, Windows is "sharing" my music on my network to my Xbox360 and my laptop in separate rooms, so if anyone other than me access the music am I now breaking the law ?

This whole thing is a load of nonsense. Yes there is illegal sharing going on in the world, but killing consumers & holding back technology isn't going to fix it.


By JustTom on 12/18/2007 11:02:30 AM , Rating: 2
Read the brief, the problem here is that Howell put the MP3s in his Kaazaa shared folder, where a RIAA spy company accessed the files and downloaded 11. The point is made numerous times that the problem was ripping the music tracks and making them accessible for downloading. This case, at least, is not one of hypothetical file sharing the RIAA spy company actually downloaded music from the Howell's Kaazaa shared folder.

So it is my guess that unless you allow people to copy your Media Center files over a p2p network the RIAA gestapo will not be kicking down your door.


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