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.

RIAA: Rampaging Idiots Against America

A few months ago, a record company lawyer said that: When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song. That was in the Jammie Thomas case, but it wasn’t the central argument of the case. It does seem to be the central argument in a current case.

In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.

The suit is being brought by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The quote is from a WashPost article (via Techmeme).

I cannot see any shred of sense in the argument that you can’t make a copy, for your own use, of music you have paid for. Even if there was legal or moral sense, I can’t see the sense in suing your customers for something that many, perhaps most, of them do.

For example, I’ve been doing it for decades. Twenty years ago, I bought records (those foot-across vinyl things) and copied them to cassette so that I could listen to them in the car as well as at home.

Sony Seems Set to Sue Us All

The Ars Technica comedy column continues to report the stand-up of Jennifer Pariser. She has an excellent straight man in Richard Gabriel.

Pariser has a very broad definition of “stealing.” When questioned by Richard Gabriel, lead counsel for the record labels, Pariser suggested that what millions of music fans do is actually theft. The dirty deed? Ripping your own CDs or downloading songs you already own.

Gabriel asked if it was wrong for consumers to make copies of music which they have purchased, even just one copy. Pariser replied, “When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song.” Making “a copy” of a purchased song is just “a nice way of saying ‘steals just one copy’,” she said.

I’m sure that further gems will follow, and that Mashable (among other sites) will bring them to our attention.

A Positive Statistic for the RIAA?

Yesterday was the first day of Capitol Records v. Jammie Thomas, the first file-sharing case to go to trial, and the latest battle in the RIAA‘s war against file-sharing. One of the best parts so far (according to BB Cory as well as to me) is an admission by Jennifer Pariser, Sony BMG’s head of litigation.

“We’ve lost money on this program,” she said, the “we” being the record labels, who have spent “millions.” So let’s get this straight: the record companies are losing money in order to conduct a campaign that earns them dislike and mockery from many music fans?

I’m surprised that the record companies aren’t being sued by their shareholders for spending their money on a war that they can’t win, and that alienates much of the public. If they are so sued, I suggest that they compute and use the following statistic: dollars spent per music fan alienated. It’s probably low enough to suggest efficiency.

The case continues today. I hope that the judge doesn’t continue to sustain objections to perfectly reasonable questions. Yesterday, Thomas’ lawyer asked, “”How many dead people have you sued?” I think that the question is relevant to the issue of the RIAA targeting clearly innocent people.