RIAA Eyes Next Possible Targets: CD Burners, Radio Listeners
October 9, 2007 8:54 AM
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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
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
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
verdict to its coffers.
Some fear the RIAA is overstepping its bounds, including in the
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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Precedent exists already in the US
10/9/2007 10:57:47 AM
There are laws in the US that regulate what you can do with radio and music in public. It's been a while since I had a semester of Communications Law. I think radio in public is in the clear. But playing a CD of music in a public business needs to be broadly licensed. Teams from ASCAP drive around the US in vans and if they happen upon a business playing music that's unlicensed, they levy a fine on that business. At least that's what I recall. But there are music vendors i.e. Muzak, and ways of licensing music for places like Borders, grocery stores, malls, etc. I had a buddy who went to music business school who told me that small royalties
paid on songs broadcast on the radio.
It sounds like Microsoft's Zune method of sharing a song for 3 days or 3 plays or whatever is more accomodating than the RIAA's preferences. Music has to be heard somehow to spread and even sell.
The phenomenon of albums that are
only half good
probably contributes to declining CD sales anyway.
“Then they pop up and say ‘Hello, surprise! Give us your money or we will shut you down!' Screw them. Seriously, screw them. You can quote me on that.” -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng referencing patent trolls
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