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The Electronic Frontier Foundation tears into the Recording Industry Association of America's controversial lawsuit campaign as it looks back over the past four years

Against a climate of litigation and DRM, the Electronic Frontier Foundation released “RIAA v. The People: Four Years Later,” a report (PDF) examining the entertainment’s anti-piracy efforts four years after the first P2P lawsuits targeting users.

The 25-page report -- which includes nine pages of citations -- covers broad territory, chronicling the record industry’s various legal campaigns and why each one has failed. Starting with the RIAA’s early attempts to “sue the technology,” the EFF argues that each successive attempt to curb piracy with litigation has no effect at best and, at worse, drives piracy even further underground: “In response to the RIAA lawsuits, many filesharers are beginning to opt for new file sharing technologies that protect their anonymity,” the EFF writes, “[and] infiltrating these private P2P circles is much more difficult than simply trolling public P2P networks.”

Legitimate downloading services do not escape the EFF’s analysis, either. Referring the DRM-encumbered downloads from stores like iTunes, the EFF writes: 

“While these restrictions, when considered in a vacuum, may strike some as reasonable, they make for a less-than-attractive carrot when dangled in front of music fans used to the unencumbered MP3 files they find on P2P networks. At the same time, the DRM technologies have not succeeded in keeping any “protected” songs off the Internet. In fact, the existence of these restrictions gives otherwise law-abiding customers a reason to seek out P2P channels when their legitimate expectations are frustrated (after all, these are the customers who paid for the music they could have obtained for free!).”

Interestingly, the EFF seems to feel that illegal file sharing and P2P piracy may actually be in a state of regression: with the dropping costs of high-capacity storage media, friends and social circles have returned to swapping CDs instead of downloads; with the cost of optical media dropping, this is easier than ever. Moreso, users are not just swapping CDs, but may also be trading hard drives filled with music, allowing pirates to trade files at a rate faster than P2P networks. 

The report ends with remarkable proposal: rather than continuing lawsuits against its own customers, the EFF proposes a “voluntary collective licensing scheme” not unlike the royalties systems used for performance venues, radiostations, and restaurants. Essentially, P2P filetrading would be legal if the trader paid a monthly fee:

“The music industry forms one or more collecting societies, which then offers file sharing music fans the opportunity to “get legit” in exchange for a reasonable regular payment, say $5 per month. So long as they pay, the fans are free to keep doing what they are going to do anyway -- share the music they love using whatever software they like on whatever computer platform they prefer -- without fear of lawsuits. The money collected gets divided among rightsholders based on the popularity of their music. In exchange, file sharing music fans who pay (or have their ISP or software provider or other intermediary pay on their behalf) will be free to download whatever they like, using whatever software works best for them. The more people share, the more money goes to rights-holders. The more competition in P2P software, the more rapid the innovation and improvement. The more freedom for fans to upload what they care about, the deeper the catalog.”  

The concept is not new, however, as companies like Napster have already done it for a few years now with its “unlimited access” rental program, where consumers have free access to a large library provided they keep paying the monthly fee. The key difference between the EFF’s scheme and rental services, however, is that users, not rightsholders, retain control over the files downloaded, the software used for playback, and the means of acquisition; a stark contrast to the “walled gardens” that permeate the digital music market of today.

According to Ars Technica, the idea has already been passed around by EFF attorney Fred von Lohmann at a Beverly Hills DRM conference last spring. The labels refused, citing that consumers would “pay exactly once,” download everything they wanted, then immediately cease all future payments.

"This is about money, not morality," says von Lohmann. "With a blanket licensing solution, the RIAA can call off the lawyers and the lobbyists, and universities can get back to education instead of copyright enforcement."

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Stop the plea bargains
By Beenthere on 8/30/2007 8:56:42 PM , Rating: -1
I think the RIAA should stop all plea bargains and prosecute all Pirates. Time to get this scum off the streets and in prison like every other lowlife criminal. All prosecuted Pirates should be fined $10K per copy, plus all costs of prosecution and incarceration. Prison time should be a minimum of one year with no early out. If you can't pay the $10K per copy then a year is added to your prison time for every $10K owed/copy stolen. The Pirates will get the message.

While this won't stop all Piracy it will get a lot of scum off the streets and give these people a chance to re-evaluate their worthless lives and decide if they can abide by the laws of society or is they should rot in prison.

They is no justification what so ever for theft, no matter how much shitze people talk. The reason we have laws is to protect society from this kind of scum who thinks they are above the law.

RE: Stop the plea bargains
By siberus on 8/30/2007 11:55:35 PM , Rating: 1
They're already off the streets. If they can't pirate then they'll be forced to come out doors.

RE: Stop the plea bargains
By Gibby82 on 8/31/2007 5:36:38 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, and those record company executives who not only screw us but also the artists for more and more money....they are just great law abiding citizens? Open your eyes-the music industry has probably broken more laws than all pirates. They just have enough money to avoid being caught. If you had any sense you'd know that they don't care at all about you as a customer-they just want your money, no matter how poor it you are.

Music is a gift. It's a gift to our society, to those who can make it, and to those that can listen. It's a PRIVILEGE that life affords us all. To turn that into a money grubbing industry is horrid. Artists who complain about losing millions-I sincerely hope they lose it all. Those people are living the DREAM...they should be happy to get 100K a year...they should be happy they aren't working in McDonalds!


RE: Stop the plea bargains
By Gibby82 on 8/31/2007 5:37:49 AM , Rating: 2
Meant to reply to the OP.

RE: Stop the plea bargains
By mindless1 on 8/31/2007 8:34:17 PM , Rating: 2
They should be happy they had the chance to sit on their ass writing the songs and practicing at all, to have others supporting them while they were doing something that today's society obviously doesn't consider productive enough, of enough value to pay for nor support them.

what I've written makes it seem like I am opposed to true artists. It is not the case, but today we have an artifical industry that is not selling art, they are mechanically pumping out mostly crap then trying to claim we have to value it as much as they collaborated to price fix it. In the case of art the customer values, remember that CDs DO SELL, they just don't sell as well as the RIAA had hoped because the RIAA ignores the myriad other entertainment possiblities and expenses in modern society.

RE: Stop the plea bargains
By Christopher1 on 9/3/2007 11:39:59 AM , Rating: 2
I have to say that you are pretty much right. The music industry today is pumping out crap and then expecting us to bite and buy it.

Personally, the only music that I have found.... good lately, is the tweenage music that Disney and a few others make. Everything else just hasn't been very good recently.

RE: Stop the plea bargains
By rdeegvainl on 8/31/2007 5:28:43 AM , Rating: 2
Actually i kind of like that idea, what i would do then is one laptop per homeless, so then they can pirate and get many many years in a facility that will take care of all their needs, warm bed, food, gym membership, internet and cable. Though I hope you know who is gonna pay for this, that's right, you and me, our taxes can go to making sure everyone is in a nicer enviroment....
A friendly reminder, before you speak, think... cause you obviously forgot this time.

RE: Stop the plea bargains
By Laitainion on 8/31/2007 5:31:04 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, online piracy (in which the victim only loses a *potential* sale, an important difference) is *so* much worse than all the murders, rape and who knows what else goes on.

I think it is disgusting and draconian that the punishment for, what is essentially nothing more than petty theft at BEST (which is what it would count as if you stole the CD from the shop), is so much more severe simply because it's done online.

RE: Stop the plea bargains
By mindless1 on 8/31/2007 8:26:25 PM , Rating: 1
Were in your mind is this $10K figure justified?

Obviously you have delusions of grandeur, assigning such a large penalty and prison time to a petty act.

IMO, it should carry no worse penalty that cutting someone off in traffic, a moving violation that can risk lives. That's what, a $75 fine? Justice has to be blind and applied fairly to work. Serving special interests against the general public for petty things is not just.

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