RIAA, Howell, WashPost, et al.

Consider the following assertions.

  1. It is illegal to copy files from a CD you legally purchased to your computer.
  2. The RIAA made assertion 1.
  3. Marc Fisher, writing in the Washington Post, made assertion 2.

Assertion 3 is true, and Fisher’s article has subsequently been blogged about by many, including me. Assertion 2 has been challenged by many, including Greg Sandoval, blogging at CNET and inviting us to look at the legal brief itself.

So I did go the brief itself. Here’s the sentence I find most interesting.

  • Defendant possessed unauthorized copies of Plaintiff’s copyrighted sound recordings on his computer and actually disseminated such unauthorized copies over the KaZaA peer-to-peer network.

The way I read that is based on my understanding of the word and. To assert X and Y is to assert that each of X and Y is true. In this case, X refers to possession of unauthorized copies, and Y refers to the dissemination of said copies. So X asserts that the copies were unauthorized, and were so before they were disseminated.

On other words, it seems to me that assertion 2 at the top of this post is true. I should point out, if it’s not already obvious, that I am not a lawyer. It happens that my office neighbor is a lawyer with considerable knowledge of copyright. It turns out that there are more variables than I was aware of, or have time to research and post about now.

However, I am of the opinion that the brief asserts that the copies made by Jeffrey Howell were unauthorized before they were disseminated. That’s narrower than assertion 1 above, since it refers to these specific copies.

But perhaps I should take the advice of Stan at Mashable.

Let’s leave the lawyer talk to lawyers; I’ll make things real simple here, folks. It’s RIAA that’s muddying the water here. They’re the ones that are using doublespeak to make it increasingly confusing to everyone, creating an atmosphere of fear (and loathing) in which you can never be sure whether you’re stealing music or not. It’s no wonder that they get picked on by everyone with a brain: people are annoyed and unhappy about their politics, their lawsuits, and their murky statements on copyright.

5 thoughts on “RIAA, Howell, WashPost, et al.”

  1. In legal speak, “unauthorized” does always not mean “illegal”. Fair use generally refers to unauthorized use that is protected by law. Parody is another example of a legal use that is usually unauthorized.

  2. Sorry, that should read “…does not always mean…” in the comment above. Not sure how I swapped those.

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