Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Wednesday | June 25, 2003

RIAA to sue file traders

RIAA Plans Lawsuits Against File Traders

By David McGuire
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 25, 2003; 1:08 PM

The chief lobby group of the nation's major recording labels today said it is preparing hundreds of lawsuits against Internet users who illegally trade copyrighted music files......The first round of lawsuits will be prepared during the next eight to 10 weeks. They will ask for injunctions and monetary damages against file swappers, (RIAA President Cary) Sherman said.

"We have no hard and fast rules about how many files you have to be distributing" to be targeted in the RIAA sweep, he said. "Any individual computer user who continues to steal music will face the very real risk of having to face the music."

There are 57 million Americans who use file-sharing services today, according to Boston-based research firm the Yankee Group.


Wayne Rosso, president of the West Indies-based Grokster file-trading service, said the RIAA's tactics are "nothing short of lunacy."

"I can't wait to see what happens when a congressman or senator's child is sued," he said. "They've taken leave of their senses. They lost their [Los Angeles] lawsuit against us and they're pissed about it, so their answer is to sue their customers

You can argue the propriety of fair use and file trading, if you want, but what fascinates me is the political cluelessness of broadbased lawsuits.

First, it turns otherwise law abiding citizens into criminals. Anyone who lives in a major city can buy bootlegged CD's. By attempting to sue average customers to scare them off of file trading, and we're talking a large percentage of the US population and maybe the majority of working adults, they set themselves up to be ambushed in Congress. What legislator is going to protect their right to control their property when they are going to drag in teenagers and unaware parents into expensive legal proceedings.

Even gathering the evidence of file trading exposes them to risk of costly legal counteraction. It is clearly legal to download digital copies of music you own. So if I download Metallica, I'm hardly violating the law. Thus, it could well be impossible for the RIAA to know who is violation and who isn't.

Second, their clients are wealthy hedonists. Are you really going to persue a single mother and her teenage son for a few Eminem tracks into bankruptcy? I simply cannot fathom why anyone would risk the kinds of stories which go "Billy Joe Johnson was planning to attend Alabama State until the letter from the RIAA came. Johnson, who worked his way through high school and cared for his two younger brothers, had saved $14,000 for college. The RIAA is demanding that money as a legal settlement for three Ludacris songs he downloaded on his computer."

Now, unless you're braindead, you're gonna hammer the RIAA as evil for going after this kid. You're going to go to the House floor and propose that file trading be included under fair use.

Third, how can they maintain political support when they place 57 million people at risk for legal action. They're literally forcing Congress to change tthe law to protect their voters. It is unlilkely that anyone who reads this site has not digitized their music. I'll assume many download, some may rip from music they own, either way, most of the readers here have digital music files. Short of searching and impounding your computer, they would have to assume you have downloaded music you do not have in another form, which is not enough for a case.

Politics, as it has been said, is the art of the possible. You don't stop technology with lawsuits. The RIAA cannot even know if US sites are doing the file trading. How does the RIAA, not exactly the most popular organization in Congress, expect to maintain their political support with such a desperate, legally risky and just braindead solution.

Rosso is right. This strategy is just fraught with political consequences for the RIAA which they simply do not see. Anything they want from Congress is likely to wind up dead on arrivial. It's not just the Congressman's or Senator's kid, but their cousins, their secretaries and staffers, their girlfriends and mistresses, their friends and neighbors. They once did a survey and found there was massive file trading at State and NIH. I can't imagine there's not a government network without some digitized music files illegally downloaded. This is just the worse possible policy conducted in the worst possible way.

Steve Gilliard

Posted June 25, 2003 12:30 PM | Comments (49)


Bush Administration
Business and Economy
Foreign Policy

© 2002. Steal all you want.
(For non-commercial use, that is.)