Tag Archives: Recording Industry Association of America

Havard Law Students Take on the RIAA

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There’s a very important case brewing in Boston where Joel Tenebaum is being sued by the RIAA for what could be $1,000,000 all for downloading seven songs from a popular P2P network.

ArsTech has been covering the story and they have a great overview/update of it on their blog.  Here’s a taste:

[Harvard Law Professor] Nesson took the case, acting as Tenenbaum’s attorney, but he outsourced the work of research, strategy, and brief writing to a set of eager Harvard Law students. The students would quickly mount an ambitious defense, not just of Joel Tenenbaum, but of the claim that the RIAA legal campaign was unconstitutionally excessive and improper. Armed with a law library, Twitter, a Web site, and caffeine, the students have already made sure that the upcoming Tenenbaum trial will eclipse the Minnesota Jammie Thomas case for sheer spectacle.

This is great reporting by ArsTech on a story everyone should be following.

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NH Woman Fights RIAA

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Someday we will look back on the actions of RIAA and the rest of the music industry and laugh, or maybe cry.  For now, however, we will have to continue hearing stories like this:

The woman, Mavis Roy of Hudson, has called on legal clinics at the state’s only law school to represent her as she fights the charges in federal court this year.

The lawsuit brought by UMG Recordings, Interscope Records, Motown Record Co., and BMG Music alleges that Roy violated copyright infringement laws by downloading and distributing 218 audio files on April 24, 2007.

Roy’s defense team questions how that could be when she did not have a computer in her house at the time in question.

Why RIAA is allowed to behave in this manner is confounding.  Nearly every suit they bring reeks of intimidation and weak evidence.  Not only that, but going after grown women for allegedly downloads a few songs from a pirated source is simply not going to help save an industry that is built on a collection of obsolete business models.


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RIAA Trying to Hide Actions in Court

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RIAA, the group perhaps most singly responsible for turning music fans against the major labels, is currently suing a young man who is being defended, in part, by a Harvard professor.

In an attempt to shed some light on the absurd arguments RIAA uses to make their case, the defendants requested that the court allow the trial to be webcast live.

Tenenbaum’s attorneys had sought the Webcast, arguing that streaming the hearing would allow the public to effectively attend the trial. The record industry opposed the request on the grounds that the publicity could prejudice a potential jury pool.

Gertner last week discounted the RIAA’s arguments, noting that the organization repeatedly said it sued non-commercial file swappers in order to generate publicity that would dissuade others from sharing music. Her order authorized the Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society to host the streams.(via)

Now the trial has been delayed as RIAA appeals this decision.

Let’s review, shall we.  RIAA claims that these trials should be a warning and deterent to other file-sharers but they don’t want anyone to actually be able to watch the trial.  That makes a ton of sense.

If the major labels want any chance to survive in the digital age they need to reign in RIAA and start treating their potential customers as partners instead of pirates.

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The YouTube Dilemma – Users vs. Copyright Protection

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There is simply no denying that YouTube is still the most important video-sharing site, at least in the United States.  It is not likely to see this position change much, at least not in the next year.

As YouTube has grown it has been forced to decide if they want to side with the users who have made the site what it is or the rights-holders to a lot the material that users have posted.  More and more, YouTube is siding with rights-holders, even in cases where fair-use can easily be argued.

YouTube is trying to avoid a never-ending string of lawsuits (justified or otherwise) from RIAA, DMCA, et al. with pre-emptive actions against their users.  Unfortunately for both YouTube and its users this means that the site is rapidly becoming a very unfriendly destination for the kinds of “mashup” entertainment that independent video creators and viewers so enjoy.

Here are just a few of the things YouTube will take down and eventually ban users completely for doing:

1) Dancing to a pop song not in the public domain

2) Remixing videos to existing songs not in the public domain

3) Using TV news clips to make a political statement

4) Kids singing Hannah Montana songs at a birthday party

5) Video-collages of Hollywood movies. (like every time they say “fuck” in Pulp Fiction)

The really sad part is that the vast majority of these kinds of videos are completely fair-use but there is no way to argue that with YouTube.  It is also incredibly short-sighted of rights-holders not to understand the intrinsic value of being used and exposed via these kinds of videos.  It is hard to imagine how Warner Music loses money when a teenager lipsyncs to the latest top-ten single.

The end-result will be that people who want to create these types of videos are going to find a new host.  And a smart host could make a good amount of cash providing a legal safe-haven.

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In 2009, Big Media to Continue Losing to Pirates

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Unless someone makes a very bold move, there is no reason to think that various forms of digital piracy will continue to grow in 2009.

This will be in the face of increased government scrutiny and bolder attempts by groups like RIAA to shut it all down.

Why?  Because the powers behind all big media continues to think that they can somehow beat back the digital tide and continue to make money with business models that have become obsolete.

Take this comment from a recent post on BusinessWeek:

The basic problem is that Hollywood is attempting to preserve an analog business model in a digital age. The result is a crazy quilt of availability in different media, in different geographies, and at different times. Our Man in Havana turns up now and then on cable channels, and the DVD has been available from Sony in Britain since 2005. But that disk is coded so it only works in European “Zone 2” players, not in North America. All of this makes little sense in a world where digital copies, legal or otherwise, are freely available.

If you doubt that, just try Googling (GOOG) “unlocked DVD players” and see how easy it is to get around the geographic zone restrictions. Or simply download a copy of the movie using BitTorrent, as I did. I don’t want to condone piracy. Yet it’s hard to condemn—or resist—when there’s a commodity item out there on the market and the vendor, for no particular reason, neglects to make it available to buyers.

The major sports leagues are facing a similar challenge.  As a first-person example, last night I was at my girlfriend’s TV & cable-free apartment and wanted to see a bit of the NFL playoff game.  I went to Google and tried looking up “streaming NFL playoff.”  A got a whole slew of options, none of which were official options provided by the NFL.

What I found was a site with links to “pirate” streams of the game provided by fellow fans who had taken the TV signal, routed it through their computer via a TV-tuner card and then posted that signal to any number of streaming hosts (UStream was last night’s helpful friend).

Within about 60 seconds I was watching a sort of low-res but completely watchable live transmission of the game.  I was also forced to watch all the ads, so I’m not even sure how this hurts anyone… but the NFL considers this a huge problem.

Of course, the problem isn’t pirates, it’s that the NFL (and MLB, the NHL and the rest of them) have failed to provide a viable option of their own that fits the needs of many potential customers.

How about simply charging $.99 to watch a game online.  With the commercials, even.  I would pay that just to have a simple, high-res, on-demand stream of the game I want to see.

It isn’t that people are dying to use pirate-methods to get the content they desire.  They are just not willing to jump through endless hoops and be over-charged for that content.

As soon as big media wises up to this and decides to go back to treating customers as people they serve instead of people they sue they will put the pirates right out of business.

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Inching Closer to Reigning in MPAA/RIAA et. al.

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One of the many incredibly outrageous things that RIAA tries to do is to recoup “statutory damages” from file sharers that massively outweigh the actual financial damages incurred.

Now, at least a few judges are beginning to see the light.  TechDirt points to a recent NY court ruling:

“In a recent case in the Southern District of New York, Yurman Studio, Inc. v. Castaneda, 07 Civ. 1241 (SAS)(S.D.N.Y. November 19, 2008), District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin reminds us of the well settled principle that “At the end of the day, ‘statutory damages should bear some relation to actual damages suffered’ [citing RSO Records v. Peri, 596 F.Supp. 849,862 (SDNY 1984); New Line Cinema Corp. v. Russ Berrie & Co., 161 F.Supp.2d 293,303 (SDNY 2001); 4 Nimmer Sec. 14.04[E][1] at 14-90(2005)] and ‘cannot be divorced entirely from economic reality‘” (via)

More people are waking up to the reality that the current manner in which copyright law is being applied to digital content is just plain crazy.  It is an extremely complex problem but it will not be solved unless more individuals stand up to these powerful organizations.

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Dear Barack Obama, Please Kill RIAA

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RIAA’s CEO – Ew!

A couple months into the new acedemic year and one thing is clear – RIAA wants to sue the crap out of college kids for listening to music.

Every day it seems there is some new story about how RIAA is trying to force colleges and universities to share info about what their students are downloading and sharing so that RIAA can then assault their students with criminal charges, court dates and mammouth lawyer fees that can often result in students being forced to drop out of school altogether.

Considering that there is no real proof that music piracy has a direct impact on the profits of labels and that there are real problems facing America perhaps it is time to reign in RIAA and stop them from screwing up the lives of people who have done little more than click on a link.

Please, Presendent-elect Obama, call these people in and tell them to stop the unnecessary abuse.

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