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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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What about portables?
By EidolWays on 10/9/2007 4:13:42 PM , Rating: 3
In the quotes from Ms Pariser that I've seen thus far, she makes no distinction between various means of copying. Now, the parent articles typically reference "burning," but Pariser doesn't seem to make a distinction.

So what does this mean for portables? If you purchase a song online and then place a COPY on your iPod then, by her definition, you've just stolen the song. Never mind that it will still only be you that's using the song.

Part of the problem here seems to be that music is nearly being treated as software. "You gotta have a license for every client machine on which the software is installed!"

The fun thing is that this would also mean burning my purchased music to a CD for enjoyment in my car is illegal. And I fail to understand why someone else hearing the music that plays from my car incurs a LOSS for the label. It's entirely possible that anyone who hears the song would not have otherwise heard it. They might like it and go buy the CD. In which case, isn't it free advertising?

I'm also not certain why her testimony is given such weight. She's the legal counsel for a company that has a personally vested interest in extracting as much cash out of the market as possible. This equates to an obvious bias. Furthermore, she offers no actual proof to substantiate her claim that such copying by a single user actually hurts the label. That is, unless you consider purchasing a new copy for every single device or medium you put the song on to be the norm. OK, then I might buy into the copying incurring a loss. The frightening thing is that they'll likely try to convince some judge that it is the norm and that the current system is, in fact, nothing but a glut of theft.

That's the fun part. They don't have to offer reasonable proof of loss or temper their forward march at all. So long as they can convince some idiot judge that things are not as they should be, then they win.

Also, y'know, I voted for Bush. But I still wonder at the man quite often...

RE: What about portables?
By EidolWays on 10/9/2007 4:22:05 PM , Rating: 2
As an addendum to my own post, what about moving a song file? In so doing, there are temporarily two copies before your computer deletes the original. Does this mean that even moving a song from one location to another on your PC constitutes theft?

RE: What about portables?
By Chocobollz on 10/17/2007 1:04:16 AM , Rating: 2
Err.. actually, when you delete your file, the data were still be there in your harddisk, its just the index which is deleted and so it means if you move your file, there'll be 1 copies left there on your harddisk, and yes, you can be prosecuted as a theft :P

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