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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 Proteusza on 12/18/2007 4:28:16 AM , Rating: 2
Quite frankly I dont see how they can legally enforce their will that it is illegal to copy your own CDs. Oh wait they can through lobbying, its so easy for them and they do it all the time.

In any case, if I rip CDs to my shared folder, I'm not forcing anyone to copy them. What if I go on a holiday to Jamaica and I want to listen to the music that I am legally entitled to? Is that not a good way of using P2P services?

Now, if someone else downloads my music, thats their problem. How do I know they dont have an appropriate license? Its like saying you cant keep your music CDs in your house because someone might break in and steal them, so you had better leave them with the record company.


By JustTom on 12/18/2007 12:52:17 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Its like saying you cant keep your music CDs in your house because someone might break in and steal them, so you had better leave them with the record company.


The situations are not even remotely analogous. First, when someone copies files from a shared p2p folder they are not breaking into anything, you invited them; second when files are copied you do not lose access to them, when CDs are stolen you do. RIAA contends Howell KNEW files were being copied from his shared folder and allowed it to happen. However you may feel about the RIAA and its tactics this is a clear violation of US law.


"I mean, if you wanna break down someone's door, why don't you start with AT&T, for God sakes? They make your amazing phone unusable as a phone!" -- Jon Stewart on Apple and the iPhone

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