Junior Mike Asman, a biology/premed major, sits at his computer in his dorm room, listening to his extensive collection of music on his computer, a collection that over the years has grown to more than 1,000 songs.
Asman is just one of more than 37 million people sharing and downloading music in the United States.
“I don’t think that it’s fair what they are trying to do with these lawsuits. Most people just want one song from an album, not the whole thing,” Asman said. “Why weren’t they complaining when we taped songs off the radio?”
The RIAA is a consortium of the five largest music companies, Universal Music Corporation, Warner Music Corporation, Sony Music Entertainment, BMG Entertainment, and EMI. It has issued 261 lawsuits to people deemed “egregious uploaders,” or “major offenders” of copyright law since early September in response to the 31 percent drop in compact disk sales over the past two years.
“Egregious offenders” have been defined, according to the Washington Post, as people with 1000 downloaded files or more on their hard drives. The RIAA is looking to collect from $750 to $150,000 per downloaded file found on the subject’s computer. The proceeds from the lawsuits will go toward the RIAA’s anti-piracy programs and awareness campaign.
The copyright law in question gives the owners sole power to “reproduction, distribution, public performance, public display, and adaptation” of the work, according to Denise Mroz, an intellectual properties attorney specializing in copyright piracy. Mroz went on to say that despite the fact that there are exceptions to exclusivity, such as fair use, there is no “absolute defense for noncommercial activities.”
Mroz said that copying a song for personal use easily fits within the parameters of the fair use exception, but file sharing is hardly the same exception.
“Bottom line: just because you give copies of a copyrighted material away for free doesn’t mean it’s not infringement,” Mroz said.
Sarah Seabury Ward, a 65 year-old grandmother from Massachusetts, was served with a lawsuit after officials woke her and her husband one evening. Ward was accused of downloading and sharing more than 2,000 songs, many of which were hip-hop and grunge-metal, over the course of two years. Ward’s lawsuit was dropped after she was able to prove she had nothing to do with the charges.
Four college students were sued in the spring of 2003 for their downloaded materials. Each settled for amounts between $12,000 and $17,500.
A 12 year-old middle school student from Manhattan, Brianna LaHara, was served as well. Her parents settled with for $2,000.
The RIAA is looking to make an example of LaHara. “I do not know how they are justifying these suits. I would suspect that they may not know, initially, that some defendants are minors prior to filing the suit,” Mroz said.
Lawsuits against the file-sharing services have been met with limited success. “If the courts are unwilling to shut down the sites, the copyright owners either have to accept the losses from infringement or go after the users of these services,” Mroz said.
“I think they’re a waste of time,” Julian Smoger, a senior English/communications major said. Smoger is a songwriter who whole-heartedly supports the downloading of music from the Internet.
The RIAA is offering amnesty to file sharers. If the amnestee is caught is caught again the RIAA will file criminal charges, according to USA Today
“The key is to find a way to make people want to buy CDs again, not sue them,” Smoger said.
For more about the recording industry’s anti-downloaing suits see:
-Students on campus may be tarets for RIAA lawsuits, page 2
-Band benefits from Internet downloading, page 4
-ITR to implement software to monitor campus network, page 4
-RIAA cracks down on illegal sharing, page 5
Posted to the web by Ryan Norris