Semi-Legal Music Piracy Defenses
May 3, 2003 1:11 PM   Subscribe

The NY Times reports that music companies are considering some new anti-piracy measures of questionable legality. The ideas include a program to lock up user's computers, another to find and delete illegally downloaded files, and what amounts to a DoS attack on user's computers. There are some supporters of these possibly extralegal measures. Representative Howard Berman (D-CA) introduced a bill last year to provide the music industry with a "safe harbor from liability" when pursuing P2P traders. Should media companies be allowed to operate outside the law in their efforts to stop illegal downloads of their music?
posted by punishinglemur (23 comments total)

 
Should media companies be allowed to operate outside the law in their efforts to stop illegal downloads of their music?

No.

Where's my prize?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:22 PM on May 3, 2003


No, they shouldn't be allowed to do it. If they do engage in it then they should be treated like what they are: criminals. The legal system isn't based around two wrongs making a right unless it's actually imposed by the courts.
posted by substrate at 1:28 PM on May 3, 2003


The downloads in question shouldn't be considered illegal. We can start that argument yet again in here just to keep the thread repetitive. The sharing of music is not theft.

If it were, then so would be compilation cassette tapes shared between friends, taping stuff off the radio for personal use, or even borrowing another's music collection and taking it home to do with as you and the other please, and that way lies mad bloody carnival death. If a friend brings music to another person's party and plays it for the dozen or so people at the party, that could be construed as a public performance of the material, and the music industry could try to make that illegal too.

Many intelligent people have tried to warn of this trend before but no one listens. Certainly not the music industry or the government.

So I go out of my way now to avoid the larger record label that support this mindset that turns ordinary people into outlaws. I disagree with their interpretation of the relationship between artist & consumer at the point of purchase, and therefore do not wish to support the middlemen in the industry.

Support independent artists. Just say no to the RIAA.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:44 PM on May 3, 2003


Aw poopie. "Label" above should be plural.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:49 PM on May 3, 2003


I'm wondering how they could determine which mp3's I own (ripped from purchsed cd's) and the ones that I might have downloaded?
posted by cowboy at 1:58 PM on May 3, 2003


"Some of this stuff is going to be illegal," said Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Stanford Law School who specializes in Internet copyright issues. "It depends on if they are doing a sufficient amount of damage. The law has ways to deal with copyright infringement. Freezing people's computers is not within the scope of the copyright laws."

'Nuff said.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:33 PM on May 3, 2003


And how loudly will they scream for heads when that same software is used to attack their corporate websites?

In fact.. given the whole cyberterrorism hysteria, shouldn't companies developing this kind of software be investigated for putting the American "homeland" at risk?
posted by slipperywhenwet at 2:34 PM on May 3, 2003


...potentially malicious programs that masquerade as music files.

I thought that mp3 files were like txt files, in that you can't stick any scripts into them. Can anyone confirm this?
posted by epimorph at 2:59 PM on May 3, 2003


MP3s aren't executable so the only way they could run programs on downloaders' machines is to exploit some vulnerability (via buffer overflow, e.g.) in music playing software. There have been reports of such vulnerabilities in WMP and WinAmp, but only in some versions, and patches have been released for them. So only a small percentage of downloaders would potentially be affected.
posted by TimeFactor at 3:06 PM on May 3, 2003


I thought that mp3 files were like txt files, in that you can't stick any scripts into them. Can anyone confirm this?

Epimorph - Yep, that's mostly true, although I'd be willing to bet that if you really knew what you were doing, you could set up a music file that would exploit holes in things like Windows Media Player and Winamp and allow you to run arbitrary code on the user's machine. Here is a security advisory that addresses exactly that situation.

Also, its possible that they could set up some sort of bait-and-switch where a user downloads an executable file when they think they're actually downloading Britney Spears' latest opus.

Also, I could imagine a situation where if the RIAA got the cooperation of Microsoft or AOL-Time Warner (AOL owns Winamp), then its possible that holes could be inserted at the RIAA's request that they could then exploit.
posted by bshort at 3:17 PM on May 3, 2003


I might lose my friggin' mind and doing something rash if I found out some record company fucked up my computer. Maybe not, but boy would I be mad. MAD!
posted by Witty at 3:42 PM on May 3, 2003


The music industry obviously doesn't believe the judicial system is
1) operating fast enough to deliver RIAA's perception of justice, and
2) operating in what they believe to be their best interests.

So if the law is not enough, they'll make their own laws. This is natural behavior for any corporate entity bigger than its britches, and is why monopolies have been deemed unconstitutional.

The RIAA could call it a form of vigilante justice, and claim the consumers have been doing that since day one. RIAA is trying to turn their consumers into outlaws, but burning a CD for a friend because $20 is too much to ask for a commercial CD is closer to civil disobedience than it is to criminal behavior, and it barely fits even civil disobedience. I mean it's a friend doing a favor for a friend. Civil behavior, and disobedient by the letter of the law. Barely.

However, RIAA's recently revealed plans would lead to tactics that are not civil to their consumers or obedient to the law, which is where the line gets drawn past civil disobedience to criminal behavior. Sharing music is not theft, but attacking computers and seeking out file information over the Internet unwarranted is privacy invasion.

So inevitably, the RIAA is going to become the very thing it accuses of its self-perceived enemy: criminal.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:51 PM on May 3, 2003


Sorry, can't help myself.....

The United States obviously doesn't believe the United Nations is
1) operating fast enough to deliver
US's perception of justice, and
2) operating in what they believe to be their best interests.

So if the law is not enough, they'll make their own laws. This is natural behavior for any
nation bigger than its britches, and is why empires have been deemed undesirable.

The
US could call it a form of vigilante justice, and claim the terrorists have been doing that since day one. The United States is trying to turn their fellow nations into outlaws [. . . ]

So inevitably, the
United States is going to become the very thing it accuses of its self-perceived enemy: criminal.

</derailing parody>

~~[[[8^)
posted by Fezboy! at 4:14 PM on May 3, 2003


By the way, I first thought that the anti-piracy measures discussed were satire. I should have remembered, though, that satire is dead in a day and age when The Onion is oddly prescient instead of just funny.
posted by Fezboy! at 4:20 PM on May 3, 2003


ass-hat hackers.
posted by eddydamascene at 4:45 PM on May 3, 2003


This'll drive record sales way up.
posted by gottabefunky at 4:48 PM on May 3, 2003


A point here - if legislation is passed that allows the RIAA to do this, then their tactics will not be illegal.

Just stupid, irrational, and offensive. (Kind of like twisting any possible thread into yet another politcal attack?)
posted by John Smallberries at 7:04 PM on May 3, 2003


The labels prove on an almost weekly basis how horridly and embarrassingly out of touch they are.

Is there not a single person at the RIAA that knows what a computer is and what it does and how it works?

Are they really this lost about technology?

So desperate. So futile. SO pathetic.

If they invested 1/10th the effort they have spent on trying to "stop pirating on the internet" to new development they would already have a viable profitable business model for the internet.

I have bought your music. I should be able to enjoy it however I damn well please.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:05 PM on May 3, 2003


Ynoxas, you echoed my favorite line from the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: "If he'd just pay me what he's paying them to stop me robbing him, I'd stop robbing him!"
posted by alumshubby at 6:42 AM on May 4, 2003


Fezboy!:

By the way, I first thought that the anti-piracy measures discussed were satire. I should have remembered, though, that satire is dead in a day and age when The Onion is oddly prescient instead of just funny.

Amen to that. The ham fisted actions of the DoJ and the RIAA have pushed me wholeheartedly into the piracy camp. I was for some time on the RIAA's side. No more.
posted by mark13 at 10:59 AM on May 4, 2003


Indeed. Though I'm normally all for property rights and the rule of law, the RIAA has become a greater threat to our freedom than it has any justification to be.

These techniques are vigilante justice. Vigilantism should not be something a state condones or tolerates, no matter whether it is someone shooting a drug dealer or destroying another's computer to "punish" them for pirating mp3s. Sharing music may or may not be theft. Even if it was however, that does not justify the RIAA taking the law into its own hands and destroying others property.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 12:41 PM on May 4, 2003


I'm almost hoping RIAA and others attempt strategies like the ones proposed here - it would give affected users a chance to use the tools of legal harrassment that RIAA has turned on college students for indexing content.

Clearly, the entertainment industry is in a panic. Black-hat RIAA hackers aren't even the most absurd tactic being proposed - suggestions for "closing" the "analog hole" are even less realistic and more paranoid.

The "analog hole" refers to the fact that protected digital content can be played, and then recorded again, by putting a microphone to the speakers and creating one's own, unprotected audio. RIAA and others are asking that hardware manufacturers include watermark detectors in their hardware to prevent sampling of watermarked content. There's little evidence this is even feasible, never mind desirable... These folks know their business model doesn't work in the 21srt century, they're terrified and they're lashing out with little sense for the consequences of their actions.
posted by obruni at 1:23 PM on May 4, 2003


If you have to spread a virus in people's computers in order to sell your product, you're doing something wrong.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 10:07 PM on May 4, 2003


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