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The RIAA's recent case and a pending case in the UK provide some insight into whom it might prosecute next

The Recording Industry Association of America is the oft villainized copyright-infringement watchdog for the music industry in the U.S.  Its letters to music sharers have led to thousands of settlement over the last few years.  Now, following its recent success in the jury civil trial Capitol Records, et al v. Jammie Thomas, which resulted in a jury verdict of $222,000 in damages, many wonder who the RIAA might target next.

The RIAA might have given a clue during testimony by music industry lawyers in the Thomas case.  During the case Jennifer Pariser, the head of litigation for Sony BMG, was called to testify.  Pariser noted that music labels make no money on bands touring, radio, or merchandise, so they are particularly vulnerable to file sharing.  She went on to say that when people steal music the label is harmed.

Pariser believes in a very broad definition of stealing that is echoed by many supporters in the RIAA.  She believes that users who buy songs are entitled to one, and only one copy.  Burning CDs is just another name for stealing, in her mind. "When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." Making "a copy" of a purchased song is just "a nice way of saying 'steals just one copy'."

Such logic has been a driving force behind efforts to "rights manage" music including the current DRM found on Apple's iTunes files and Microsoft's DRM, which is also widespread.

While it seems unlikely that the RIAA would be able to effectively identify "burners", such litigation remains a legal possibility for the RIAA and major music labels, in the minds of their lawyers.

Another possible avenue of legal action for the RIAA is the pursuit of businesses that play unauthorized music in stores.  The Performing Rights Society (PRS), Britain's version of the RIAA, may give the RIAA some possible ideas with its pending litigation.  The PRS is suing the Kwik Fit Group, a car repair shop in Edinburgh, for £200,000 in damages.  The case revolves around the complaint that Kwik Fit employees brought in personal radios which they played while working on cars, which could be heard by colleagues and customers.  The PRS says this amounts to a public "performance" and should have entailed royalties.

The possible implications if this litigation succeeds are numerous.  The RIAA could pursue retailers like Borders Books who play music in their restrooms or on their store floors.  They could also seek action against small businesses that have radios in their stores.

These possible future targets may seem outlandish or farfetched, but the RIAA and its foreign equivalents have some heavy legal firepower.  It hires many of the country's top lawyers and have gained millions in settlements and recently have added the $222,000 Thomas verdict to its coffers.

Some fear the RIAA is overstepping its bounds, including in the Thomas case.  Rep. Rick Boucher, a Virginia Democrat, and strong advocate of fair use, recently went on record stating that the trial verdict was excessive and "way out of line" with other cases of this nature.

The Bush Administration feels that the case was very fair and was a positive example of our nation's laws at work.

"Cases such as this remind us strong enforcement is a significant part of the effort to eliminate piracy, and that we have an effective legal system in the U.S. that enables rights holders to protect their intellectual property."

With the RIAA's powerful legal, financial, and political backers nobody can truly say what it impossible for it to accomplish.  Now as it is in the midst of delivering its eighth wave of infringement letters to colleges, it may soon be turning its attention to CD burners or businesses that play music in front of customers.

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By Zagor on 10/9/2007 10:16:19 AM , Rating: 5
All I can say is: amazing...

and, that I will NEVER buy another music CD again. They have their right to "protect" their intellectual property and I have my right to NEVER give then a cent.

RE: Amazing
By mmntech on 10/9/2007 10:29:05 AM , Rating: 5
I'm with you on that boycott. This is just getting silly. So now it's "stealing" when you make mix tapes and listen to the radio at work? Next they'll be telling you that you can't listen to your car stereo with the windows down because it's a "public performance."

I think RIAA's goal is and always has been to eliminate fair use. This is one of the reasons copyright law needs to change. There's no consumer protection. That's how you get the RIAA abusing the court system, at the taxpayer's expense, for their own gain, because they can't sell their products.

RE: Amazing
By iGo on 10/9/2007 10:39:00 AM , Rating: 5
Not only that... soon they will sue you for singing a song.
It's their Intellectual property, you know!

RE: Amazing
By rdeegvainl on 10/9/2007 10:51:03 AM , Rating: 5
It is getting rather ridiculous. I agree, if they are gonna be dicks about their IP, I will be a dick and not buy anything from them. I don't need what they sell, and I don't need the hassle.

RE: Amazing
By TechLuster on 10/9/2007 1:27:19 PM , Rating: 5
I agree with all of the above posts and will not be buying any music from a mainstream label anytime soon.

But guys, there's one other very important step that we all can and should take: Join the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Sign up & donate NOW!

RE: Amazing
By FITCamaro on 10/9/2007 3:27:18 PM , Rating: 2
I gave feedback to that stopthespying website. I doubt they'll like it.

RE: Amazing
By Fritzr on 10/9/2007 11:58:57 AM , Rating: 4
Already been done. Tom Fogerty was sued for recording music that sounded like his own work. A real irony is he is now recording for the same label that earlier paid him no royalties for his work & sued him for sounding too much like himself -- new owners :) (See his Wikipedia entry)

You can also be sued if your singing can be considered a performance and you have not licensed the work for performance. Square dance callers got hit heavily around 20 years ago when an International Directory meant to allow people to find callers was used to locate callers who had not obtained permission to use commercial music.

If they are going to say that making an over the air broadcast audible to people not carrying a radio by simply not ensuring that people who are not there to listen, hear it, then you may find yourself facing a lawsuit if you sing a hit song on the street. After all it is a public place so you cannot sing, whistle or play any but Public domain tunes without getting a performance license first :P This one seems silly but there have been stranger lawsuits. Be careful with your radio while you're outside -- someone may report you for that performance :D

RE: Amazing
By creathir on 10/9/07, Rating: -1
RE: Amazing
By fic2 on 10/9/2007 12:18:39 PM , Rating: 5
If the copyright system has worked flawlessly for over a hundred years then why was it changed in 1909, 1976, 1988, twice in 1998 and again in 2005? Always to take away rights from people who bought a copyrighted work or to extend the ownership rights of creators (now 120 years for a company).

RE: Amazing
By soydios on 10/9/2007 1:49:38 PM , Rating: 3
fic2 has the facts right, creathir doesn't

as the way we produce, distribute, and consume media changes faster and faster with technology, the copyright laws will have to change as well, or we end up with excessive lawsuits like this one

RE: Amazing
By eetnoyer on 10/9/2007 10:34:48 AM , Rating: 5
Henceforth and forthwith, any and all copyrighted music must be listened to on headphones that are keyed to the purchasers genetic code. That way no "unauthorized" listeners (to include family members, friends, passersby, etc.) will be exposed to unintentional copyright abuse and possible legal action.

RE: Amazing
By PrinceGaz on 10/9/2007 11:36:40 AM , Rating: 4
You forgot to mention that those headphones will be strictly volume-limited in order to ensure that people nearby cannot hear the music being played.

RE: Amazing
By dedo98 on 10/9/2007 3:01:08 PM , Rating: 1
Unbelievable, are you kidding me! This is getting way out of hand. Copyright Law as of now allows you to make an archival backup of your media. So it is legal to make a CD as long as you destroy it when you get rid of the original, same applies to DVDs. I believe the music industry already receives royalties from the sale of blank CDs, just like they do cassettes. That stupid bitch Jennifer Pariser of Sony BMG (I would hate to be her husband, boyfriend or lesbian lover) seems just like a total control freak. It isn't the RIAA that considers the copying of CDs for personal use is stealing just her and Sony BMG. If the RIAA goes after the business playing music, goes after the radio being played to loud that it is considered a public performance, they are going to cripple the artists. No one is going to play their music because it will be losing financial venture. Nothing is going to change until the artists and the media outlets get together and tell the labels and RIAA to piss off. By the way did anyone read what Yahoo said about DRM? Here is the link:

"We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet.  A lot of these people don't have Ph.Ds, and they don't have a degree in computer science." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis
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