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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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Farewell, 'fair use'
By rbuszka on 10/9/2007 10:19:51 AM , Rating: 2
The RIAA will not stop me from burning backup copies of my CD library until the record labels offer a retroactive lifetime warranty against scratched CD media.

RE: Farewell, 'fair use'
By vortmax on 10/9/2007 11:47:43 AM , Rating: 2
I agree. There should be no law against backing up music for the owners use only. If there was, then they should replace a scratched CD at no charge (not due to negligence of course)...

RE: Farewell, 'fair use'
By theapparition on 10/9/2007 12:27:35 PM , Rating: 3
There already is a law on this. You are completely legal by making up a backup copy of any song/movie that you own in the USA.
With the DMCA, though, it adds the provision that you can't circumvent copy protection to make that backup copy.

So in other words as it stands today, you can make a copy of any CD for your personal use. You can't loan that out to a friend, and letting your household family listen to it is questionable, but most jurisdictions (with any common sense) would rule that as fair use.

You cannot make a copy of a DVD, though, because that has copy protection. If the DVD came without protection, then you could make a copy. And DVD's (to my knowledge) don't have any sort of scratch replacement program. So we're already half way there.

This has to stop. The DCMA has to be re-written and new "sensible" laws enacted. Sadly, this will have to be done at the legislative level, which has shown it is more interested in lobbyists than consumers. What needs to happen is a top senator needs to get sued by the RIAA, then things will more real quick.

RE: Farewell, 'fair use'
By Meaker10 on 10/9/2007 12:40:38 PM , Rating: 2
At least here in the UK it is illegal for them to prevent you from making a backup copy so in effect copy protection is illegal in the first place (at least for the first disc).

RE: Farewell, 'fair use'
By marvdmartian on 10/9/2007 4:49:25 PM , Rating: 2
Can you imagine if these RIAA bozos got the rights to, say, a song like the "Star Spangled Banner"?? They'd have thier little song nazis at every school sporting event, counting the number of people that were singing the national anthem, in order to make certain that they charged each and every one of them for using their property! (sarcastic eye roll)

"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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