Sunday, December 30, 2007

Washington Post Article: "Download Uproar: Record Industry Goes After Personal Use"

Download Uproar: Record Industry Goes After Personal Use
By Marc Fisher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 30, 2007; Page M05

Despite more than 20,000 lawsuits filed against music fans in the years since they started finding free tunes online rather than buying CDs from record companies, the recording industry has utterly failed to halt the decline of the record album or the rise of digital music sharing.

Still, hardly a month goes by without a news release from the industry's lobby, the Recording Industry Association of America, touting a new wave of letters to college students and others demanding a settlement payment and threatening a legal battle.

Now, in an unusual case in which an Arizona recipient of an RIAA letter has fought back in court rather than write a check to avoid hefty legal fees, the industry is taking its argument against music sharing one step further: 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.
Complete article

Marc Fisher Blog (Version with Comments)

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Keywords: digital copyright law online internet law legal download upload peer to peer p2p file sharing filesharing music movies indie independent label freeculture creative commons pop/rock artists riaa independent mp3 cd favorite songs intellectual property


Unknown said...

Let me ask a question to clarify what's going on here: Is the RIAA suddenly losing confidence in its ability to escape from this fracas unscathed, due to the counterclaims, and so they're trying to force the issue by piling on a bunch of extra (though dubious) stuff?

Much as I hate to see a guy get socked with all those legal bills, I'm really hoping this question gets settled in court. One would think that MP3 player manufacturers (hello, Apple!) would have a vested interest in coming to the defendant's assistance now that the RIAA has leveled accusations that would completely destroy the MP3 player market if the court ruled in the RIAA's favor.

Jadeic said...

Ray, I had already picked up this piece as a regular internet reader of the Post and in one of my many copyright-related Google alerts. Great to see a straight report of affairs in the mainstream press for a change: with just a tinge of hostility towards the RIAA stance. Perhaps the wider public are slowly waking up to the implications of the the RIAA's subversive attempts to rewrite copyright law on the fly. As a general point, can you say whether you are getting more approaches from the media for a counter-balance viewpoint that we never hear of over in Europe and if so do they print what you report?

Secondly, and this is just a thought (a bit of seasonal silliness perhaps), if the RIAA stance really is hardening in this area (as bizarre as that may seem to us as a way forward for them as part of a coherent business strategy) perhaps as consumers we should do as they no doubt expect of us and that is write to seek authority from the RIAA as the representative of the copyright holders to transfer the tracks from CD into whatever format we require. Although I would never endorse the proliferation of chain letters I could well see this catching on: i.e. Here is a list of (say) five albums I have asked the copyright holders to give permission for me to copy to my computer, please add five of your own and pass the list on to your friends and family. Within days the RIAA could be inundated with millions of legitimate requests for copyright clearance. I wonder if that is what they want? Somehow I doubt it!

We live in a mad world that is not all of our own making.


StephenH said...

This is interesting. From the RIAA's own "" site (This site is registered to RIAA by the Whois Database), it says about Copying CDs:

Copying CDs

* It’s okay to copy music onto an analog cassette, but not for commercial purposes.
* It’s also okay to copy music onto special Audio CD-R’s, mini-discs, and digital tapes (because royalties have been paid on them) – but, again, not for commercial purposes.
* Beyond that, there’s no legal "right" to copy the copyrighted music on a CD onto a CD-R. However, burning a copy of CD onto a CD-R, or transferring a copy onto your computer hard drive or your portable music player, won’t usually raise concerns so long as:
o The copy is made from an authorized original CD that you legitimately own
o The copy is just for your personal use. It’s not a personal use – in fact, it’s illegal – to give away the copy or lend it to others for copying.
* ·The owners of copyrighted music have the right to use protection technology to allow or prevent copying.
* Remember, it’s never okay to sell or make commercial use of a copy that you make.

So if the person legally copied a CD to their MP3 player, it should be OK, and the defense should site this site:

I personally beleive that copying music to your own computer or MP3 Player from your own CDs should be legal, contrary to the RIAA attacking "fair use". If the RIAA did not want people to know that this is OK, it should correct not attack the public on this "fair use" right.

Anonymous said...

I seem to be missing something. Although the allegation that the RIAA is going after him for copy his CD's to a hard drive is all over the net, I don't see anything in the posts of case documents that says any such thing. The most recent filing by the RIAA aks only for summary judgement because he uploaded using KaZaa.


Anonymous said...

Didn't the RIAA testify to the supreme court that ripping CDs was legal? And aren't they thus estopped from arguing otherwise now?

Anonymous said...


I've found this write-up in a few areas on the net today. It would appear that someone out there is trying to discredit your web site. What say you?


raybeckerman said...

Dear anonymous RJ

Thanks very much for looking out for me.

I discussed this in detail in my original post on the RIAA's supplemental brief in Howell, under "Ed. Note".

I don't think those who disagree with my interpretation of the passage from the brief are 'trying to discredit my web site'.

But I do think they are mistaken.

I don't think they know the context in which the judge asked the question, which was in the context of the Hotaling case, in which the copies were illegal copies and the Court used the term "unauthorized" to convey the term "illegal".

And I don't think they know the despicable tactics of the RIAA lawyers as well as I do. I know they are vultures trying to take advantage of the fact that Mr. Howell doesn't have a lawyer, and hoping they can trick the judge into putting some language into a decision that they can use to support their view that ripping cd's into mp3's is copyright infringement.

Also it's fascinating that although certain web sites have pointed out the "error" in my interpretation, the RIAA -- which actually spoke to Mr. Fisher for the Post article -- did not.

Why did Mr. Lamy not use that opportunity to "clarify" his position and explain that it was only the "sharing" the RIAA is concerned with?

James said...

They're forgetting something. The files have to be in the shared folder and the file sharing program has to be loaded up and running and configured to be sharing the files in the shared folder with anyone online. I think Kazaa is (was?) set up to do that by default, but sharing can be disabled. The presence of music in a shared folder does not necessarily mean it is available all the time, not even if a computer is connected to the internet or even if a file sharing application resides on the hard drive (but is not running).

Timothy Durnan said...

OK, maybe I missed some big change to audio recording copyright in the past several years, but I was under the impression that ripping from a CD to an MP3 (or the equivalent) on a computer's hard drive constituted "Fair Use." Wasn't there a ruling about that several years ago, in the case with the RIAA suing the makers of the Rio MP3 player? I can't recall enough specifics to actually find any information about it online, but I'm pretty sure that it was ruled that the computer's hard drive (and by extension, the MP3 player) didn't fall under the AHRA, and furthermore it was equivalent to "time-shifting" as defined in Sony v. Universal (the case regarding home VCRs).

Can someone fill in the missing pieces in my beliefs? Or am I barking up the completely wrong tree?