Just days before the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) where legendary musicians and the buzz of new product introductions will showcase how consumers manage and enjoy their digital media “everywhere”, the Washington Post is reporting that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has a federal case against Jeffrey Howell, an AZ, man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer. RIAA maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.
Huh? It’s illegal to transfer CDs to a computer? I thought court rulings over the last 20 years have found no violation of copyright law in the use of VCRs and other devices to time-shift TV programs; that is, to make personal copies for the purpose of making portable a legally obtained recording?
Who is RIAA? It’s an organization that represents the major recording labels in the USA. These labels pay multi-millions of dollars for this representation and since RIAA is based in Washington, DC., they act as an industry lobbyist, literally. They often urge, cajole or otherwise influence Congress to take their side in the “battle” against “music piracy.” I’m not sure who would visit, but the RIAA even ran a Holiday Anti-Piracy Campaign message streaming across its web site offering tips on “avoiding pirate products.”
And northwest news the Oregon State Attorney General and the University of Oregon are being assaulted by RIAA’s tactics. RIAA subpoenaed the University asking it to turn over the names of students that it suspected of making copyrighted material available to file sharers. Note the keyword here is suspected. While no one would disagree that it’s appropriate for victims of copyright infringement to pursue statutory remedies, shouldn’t that pursuit be tempered by basic rights of privacy and due process?
Typically RIAA harassment comes in the form of a pre-litigation letter to “suspects” they believe are guilty file sharers. There is even a credit card payment link – p2plawsuits.com where these so called “suspects” that receive the pre-litigation letters can drop off a quick $3000 to stop the RIAA from suing them. Maybe next up is payroll deduction options?! Good grief!
But that’s not good enough. RIAA is now running around with deep- pocket teams of lawyers saying that even making a personal copy on your computer is a violation. This hard-line position is clear. RIAA wants to roll back time to pre-internet days of vinyl albums. If you make copies of copyrighted music recordings – even on cassette tape – you’re stealing. You’re breaking the law and you could be held legally liable for thousands of dollars in damages.
The RIAA’s legal crusade against consumers (its customers) is a text-book example of an old media company clinging to a business model that has collapsed.
UPDATE: The Washington Post left out a couple of facts that are now being reported for the people who need to read all the details. Turns out the article was misleading in that the RIAA was not only going after Howell for ripping his CD’s, but for also putting those ripped files into a shared Kazaa folder. I disagree that because he put them in a shared folder its infringement, but its a different claim than the original one of just ripping them to his PC. It will be interesting to watch…