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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 1078feba on 12/18/2007 10:42:47 AM , Rating: 2
Normally don't buy into the "slippery slope" argument, but when it comes to government attempts to gain access to my wallet, I make a universal exception.

Allow the gov to levy such a, uuhhh, levy, and within picoseconds, you will have legislators drafting bills to tax all purchases on the web. Slippery slope indeed.

Was recently reading an industry mag that relates how Radiohead is doing with their totally free download of their latest album. States that the band has already made significantly more by doing it this way than through a label. As of the printing of said mag, the "price" paid, you can donate when you download if you so choose, was $6.00, or rougly a third of what you would expect to pay at any store or through iTunes, etc. Really goes to show you how much goes to ensuring that the label execs continue to be able to drive Bentleys and Aston Martins.

Can anyone help me out here? The moratorium on internet taxation was recently extended, IIRC. To when, exactly?


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