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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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RE: something interesting
By TomCorelis on 8/30/2007 9:47:20 PM , Rating: 4
- it seems that not even a single case has actually gone to court- people settle before any trial can take place. this appears to be great for teh RIAA as it would be virtually impossible for them to prve a case in a court of law; even if they can prove that the information they have was not faked (data is easy to fake, by the RIAA and by downloaders who protect themselves by re-routing tyheir traffic through others) they still cannot prove taht it was you sitting at the computer. thus they push people to settle rather than to go to trial since they know they'd most likely lose.

While the RIAA does attempt to settle, not everyone agrees to it. A couple of notable cases:

Capitol Records vs. Debbie Foster - judge dismissed case with prejudice, effectively awarding attorney's fees to Ms. Foster

Elektra v. Santangelo (2005) - Sued the mother of two, RIAA lost the case and went after her kids. One (Michelle) faced a default judgement of $30k, the other has interposed counterclaims against the RIAA, including racketeering, "failure to warn", and others.

There's more...

- in order to obtain information about a person on a P2P network the RIAA needs to either hack into and/or reverse engineer the program in question, or it needs to install a trojan on your computer. the former is a violation of the DMCA, and the latter is illegal as well.

All they do is observe the IP address that the illegally shared file is being uploaded from. From there, the RIAA would file a suit against "John Doe" allowing them to subpoena the defendant's ISP for contact details. In most cases the account holder of the IP address used at the time of the offense is returned and the suit is amended to include their name. However, in many cases the information is bad; maybe its the account holder's children, maybe it's a friend, maybe it's a trojan, maybe it's just bad data period. They've *tried* in teh past to install spyware in some cases, but those efforts never lasted very long.

lastly, older albums (like elton john's work from the 70s) does not technically belong to the companies that sell them on the internet. the contracts for these works was drawn up so long ago that electronic distribution was not even considered, and thus the record companies themselves are pirates by distributing these works without proper consent from the artists. of course the artists don't care (more sales= more money), but technically all the record companies are pirates, and on an industrial scale :)

The record companies are usually given all rights over the music they produce, and it does not matter how the media landscape changes. This is why even old music must be licensed (BioShock's soundtrack, for example, contained over a dozen 1940's songs licensed for use in the game.) Even though, back then, music as we consume it now was probably infathomable, the companies still retain all rights for as long as our copyright lets them.

Just side note: I'm no lawyer, I may be wrong. :-)

RE: something interesting
By Gul Westfale on 8/30/2007 10:45:23 PM , Rating: 2
this is an article from a danish newspaper which was mentioned on 3dcenter:


A Danish pop band popular in the Eighties won a court decision Thursday that will likely affect all sales and distribution of music on the internet

Eighties pop band Dodo and the Dodos won a landmark decision in the Eastern High Court on Thursday, stopping Sony BMG from selling the band’s music on the internet via digital downloads without its consent.

The decision is believed to be the first of its kind anywhere and will likely influence future cases on the rights of record companies to market bands’ music within the digital universe.

Dodo and the Dodos sued Sony BMG five years ago over distribution rights after the record company sent out letters to all artists under contract with them, informing them that their music would begin being sold over the internet. Of the nearly 400 artists who received the letter, Dodo and the Dodos was the only one to challenge the company.

Sony BMG lost the case in the Copenhagen city courts but appealed that decision to the High Court. Thursday’s decision means that Sony BMG cannot distribute the band’s music without its explicit consent.

‘It was important for us to go through this long battle, because we know that this decision will also affect a huge number of other musicians, photographers and artists,’ the band’s guitarist, Anders Valbro, told public broadcaster DR.

Ironically, even though the court decision will probably have global consequences, Dodo and the Dodos never achieved any international recognition, and the band’s songs are all sung in Danish.

The band’s biggest hit was ‘Vågner i natten’ (‘Waking in the Night’) from their self-titled debut album released in 1987. The band has sold an estimated 1.5 million records and ranks as one of Denmark’s best-selling bands of all time.

RE: something interesting
By TomCorelis on 8/30/2007 11:57:37 PM , Rating: 2
I'm referring to the RIAA and American law. Here, that's how things works. European law is something I am not very familiar with :-)

"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)

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