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P2P Legal, Rules Judge
April 25, 2003 1:20 PM   Subscribe

In a reversal of fortunes for the RIAA et al, a judge rules against them saying that p2p technology is "not significantly different from"..."home video recorders or copy machines, both of which can be and are used to infringe copyrights."
Of course this isn't the end of it, and appeals are being made, but for once things are going the way of the P2P software makers, it seems.
posted by Blue Stone (20 comments total)

 
I'm not surprised. We were seeing that the tide was already turning in the RIAA vs. Napster case.

Same as it ever was.
    "In this century, musicians protested the commercialization of Edison's phonograph and the player piano, actors decried motion pictures, movie makers scorned 'talkies,' newspapers objected to commercial radio broadcasts, radio fought a losing battle against television, and movie studios tried to kill the VCR. In each case, despite the reluctance of entrenched interests, each of these technologies rejuvenated their predecessors and detractors and brought them new prosperity by forcing them to adapt competitively."
It always happens, and the old technology always has to cede to progress, eventually.

The RIAA can do nothing other than fight a very expensive and foolish holding action...the technology always wins in the end.
posted by Dunvegan at 1:34 PM on April 25, 2003


Here's hoping the RIAA will give up and go home so I can get back to stealing music. (ducks and runs)
posted by alumshubby at 1:38 PM on April 25, 2003


Just don't duck behind Verizon, obviously.
posted by sj at 1:44 PM on April 25, 2003


*blinks*
*rubs eyes*
*blinks*

Nope, still there. Huh, who'da thunk it?

Is that why they call it the "justice" system? I never really understood that before...
posted by NortonDC at 1:59 PM on April 25, 2003


Of course, as sj alludes, this makes it even more likely that RIAA is going to start going after individual users rather than the p2p companies.
posted by boltman at 2:07 PM on April 25, 2003


Alumshubby, don't duck...it's a good segue into addressing the fascinatingly persistent "Napster pirate meme."

Regarding "stealing"...the Napster I worked for was not stealing anything. The Bertelsmann AG version offered billions to PAY for the rights to distribute the music...which the RIAA refused outright.

The new Napster had also worked up a business plan which would have offered subscribers 30-50 downloads a month. Subscription rate: between $5 and $8 monthly.

And the artists were to be paid. The artists were liking where we were going.

I supposed that rather radical move on Napster's part to considering direct payments to artists of considerably more that the standard $0.015 per CD that the RIAA currently offer our best talent didn't appeal to the record industry at all. Therefore they refused to allow Napster to pay for the music. Period. The RIAA would not take the money if paid to them...even if it meant greater exposure globally for musicians, or more profit going directly to the music-makers.

Must have had something to do with the RIAA making $17.985 on each $18 CD or something.
posted by Dunvegan at 2:13 PM on April 25, 2003


Oh, come on Dunvegan. Not all of that $17.985 is going to the RIAA. Some of it is going to ClearChannel, to purchase radio play.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:32 PM on April 25, 2003


Ahh, the death throws of a dying industry and the glorious pain of change. I'm sorry folks, but its in the air. Progress takes precedence over the status quo sooner or later. You can put a temporary halt to it, but you can't stop it in the long run.

The fact is, paradigms are changing. Technology is changing. The ultimate question here might seem to be the good of the individual (artist) versus the good of society (consumers). In the past, there was a cost to provide entertainment/art to the people and so those who could afford to pay for it were the ones who received it. The mediators between the consumers and the artists were the fat-cats.

Now, in fact, the middleman is finding that his role is no longer necessary because of technology. In truth, society as a whole is better off because of file-sharing. If more people get to hear more music, that's good for everyone because everyone's well-being is increased. As far as the artists, they will continue to produce music and perhaps will make even more money as they find their ability to communicate directly with their audience enhanced.

The only people who have anything to lose are the fat-cat middlemen mediators, but of course, they're the ones who can afford to sway political opinions. *sigh* The glorious workings of a plutocracy. You can write all the laws you want to turn people into criminals and thieves, it doesn't mean they really are.

The laws will all crumble into obsolescence eventually as the technology and society overtakes them.
posted by PigAlien at 2:49 PM on April 25, 2003


Of course, as sj alludes, this makes it even more likely that RIAA is going to start going after individual users rather than the p2p companies.

As it should be.

If an individual chooses to break the law, then that individual can and will be prosecuted.

Going after companies that develop new technologies that can be used for legal and illegal purposes has and always will be a stupid thing to do.
posted by linux at 2:54 PM on April 25, 2003


You people certainly seem happy about one easy-to-reverse decision on a very messy battlefield. I hope your optimism proves to be warranted.
posted by rushmc at 3:12 PM on April 25, 2003


Does anyone else here see the logic of a "Use it or Lose it" copyright law?
I compare it with the old mining law of the US, where you can stake out a claim, but you must improve it and show that you are mining a minimal something out of it, or you lose it. Renewable each year.
The plus is, that if you really *want* to keep copyright on something, but *not* publish it, you should be willing to fork over a fee for the privilege. And huge multinational media conglomerates would *have* to cut loose huge amounts of unprofitable material every year--not just sit on it so that *nobody* can enjoy it or profit from it.
posted by kablam at 3:35 PM on April 25, 2003


What linux said. When a technology is actually used to infringe on someone's legitimate property rights it's right and proper to prosecute the infringement -- NOT the technology. It's even okay to hassle someone if you have probable cause: it's not illegal to have a crowbar, but it's perfectly reasonable to for the cops to detain someone who has a crowbar and is wandering through a dark neighborhood with it and can't give a good account of himself.

By the same token, the RIAA is at liberty to hire people to explore the p2p networks and bring charges against individuals once they've built a case that won't get thrown out of court. But the technology is not the criminal, and it's about sodding time the courts started looking at the right precedents for a change.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:31 PM on April 25, 2003


it's perfectly reasonable to for the cops to detain someone who has a crowbar and is wandering through a dark neighborhood with it and can't give a good account of himself.

I disagree. I think it's perfectly reasonable to question such a person but not to "detain" them. If someone enjoys walking about with a crowbar, who are we to say nay, so long as they commit no crime?
posted by rushmc at 6:20 PM on April 25, 2003


Yes, it is true that on the face of it p2p can be used for a wide variety of legal and illegal uses, but come on, if you look at the intent of the people that created the systems and the people that use it, it is very hard to argue that p2p systems is used for anything but copyright infringement. Furthermore, while I applaud p2p for exposing the record industry as a mostly immoral and inefficient economic dinosaur, I would be much more comfortable with people using a legal means to do so. While I do think that p2p really isn't really taking much out of the music industry's bottomline, wouldn't a better way to battle the mainstream music industry be to better support your favorite local and independent artists? P2P users might claim that they're practicing civil obedience. I don't buy that. They just want free music.
posted by gyc at 7:18 PM on April 25, 2003


rushmc: quite right, very poor choice of word on my part. I meant "detain" in the sense of stop and talk to, not in the sense of hauling them to the jug.

gyc: it is very hard to argue that p2p systems is used for anything but copyright infringement.

I disagree, but I don't have the numbers, and anyway it doesn't matter. There are appropriate precedents -- Sony went through all this in the early days of home VCRs: hilariously, the shoe is now entirely on the other foot as far as that company is concerned. It was equally difficult to argue that the VCR was being used for anything but copyright infringement. But it has legitimate uses, and that is enough in law.

It is not the function of the law to prevent wrongdoing by denying people the means to do wrong, not when any other legitimate purpose exists for those means. And it does. This is not a police state, not yet, and the responsiblity to prevent it becoming one rests with all of us.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:33 PM on April 25, 2003


Damn I come off sounding pompous sometimes. Sorry about that last paragraph.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:38 PM on April 25, 2003


I meant "detain" in the sense of stop and talk to, not in the sense of hauling them to the jug.

Well, all right then. You'll forgive me if I'm a bit sensitive to such notions of late. :)

(And your last paragraph sounded just fine to me...but since it seems I'm often perceived as the poster child for pomposity around here, I may not be the best judge.)
posted by rushmc at 8:45 PM on April 25, 2003


Yes, it is true that on the face of it p2p can be used for a wide variety of legal and illegal uses, but come on, if you look at the intent of the people that created the systems and the people that use it, it is very hard to argue that p2p systems is used for anything but copyright infringement.

While that may have been true at the outset (and is still mostly true today), we're beginning to see P2P ideas incorporated into legitimate tools. BitTorrent, for instance, allows a web designer to make very large files available for download without worrying about scalability issues. This is just one legitimate use of P2P technology.

While I do think that p2p really isn't really taking much out of the music industry's bottomline, wouldn't a better way to battle the mainstream music industry be to better support your favorite local and independent artists?

I'd like to see independent artists intentionally use P2P to bring their music to a wider audience. I download a *lot* of music I wouldn't have heard of otherwise, and I buy everything I don't delete. As it turns out, most of the music I'm buying is from lesser-known sources. If I were making music today, I'd share oggs and mp3s on P2P apps, and sell CDs and maybe FLAC downloads on my website.

This is exactly why the RIAA is unhappy with the P2P situation. It only represents a negligible loss in revenue now, but as more artists begin doing what I'm talking about, there will eventually be no need for large labels.
posted by Eamon at 10:05 AM on April 26, 2003


Eamon is absolutely correct. The RIAA is the middleman. This battle waged by the middleman is not for the artists. RIAA is, for perhaps the first time in decades, facing its own potential destruction. Music sharing can potentially make the RIAA obsolete. Like the train industry when planes were invented.

Or it's kinda like recently with the American Airlines employees. The workers, from the pilots to the grunts, made unprecedented sacrifices to save their employer, and then the upper management tried to give themselves bonuses & raises. Result? The CEO got sacked. At one time RIAA purpose was to bring artists closer to a wider audience. All they're doing now is getting in the way. It's high time the gluttonous, topheavy, obsolete RIAA got the boot as well.
posted by ZachsMind at 12:20 PM on April 26, 2003


In the vein of this conversation is a satire piece I download from somewhere:

I'm still waiting for the RIAA and MPAA to go after the software and hardware makers next...

REUTERS - In a landmark case, Sony Corporation (SONY) won a USD $50M lawsuit against Sony Corporation (SONY) for violations of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.

The lawsuit accused SONY of producing hardward and software, including but not limited to CD-ROM, Hi Fidelity car and home stereo equipment, and DVD players capable of being used to play standard CDs, thus allowing hackers to rob SONY of billions in CD sales by buying their CDs and then playing them in their computers or car stereos.

"Those stupid bastards," said Sony VP of CD-ROM and HiFi Audio equiment John Smith. "What were they thinking?"

"This will teach hardware and software makers that they will be held responsible if their products are being used illegally," said Sony VP of Music and Movies Fred Barber. "This sends a clear message: break your hardware before shipping or we're gonna get you. If you ship a functional product, you're going to pay!"


It's really the position Sony is in.
posted by Mitheral at 1:06 PM on April 29, 2003


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