The Recording Industry Association of America Inc is not letting up. IDG News reports that the RIAA is firing off a new wave of lawsuits and lawsuit-notification letters to users alleged to have illegally distributed significant amounts of copyright-protected music files online.
The group is filing 41 new lawsuits and sending 90 lawsuit-notification letters this week, adding to the 341 lawsuits filed and 308 notification letters sent since September. The RIAA has settled with 220 file-sharers as a result of lawsuits, lawsuit-notification letters and subpoenas. In addition, 1,054 users have submitted affidavits as part of the RIAA’s amnesty program.
The party is definitely over. But while clearly the RIAA doesn’t worry too much about the negative publicity from all this, I suspect they may be winning the battle but not the war. Buying music online will not properly take off until users know that the music they buy will be nor more restricted than the CDs they buy in shops, as to where they can play, how long they play it, where they can copy it to, and whether it’s theirs to sell on to someone else. Until that happens everything between now and then is an experiment.
CNN reports that more than a million households deleted all the digital music files they had saved on their PCs in August, a sign that the record industry’s anti-piracy tactics are hitting home. It quoted research company NPD Group as crediting the ongoing anti-piracy campaign by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and said publicity about the move led more consumers to delete musical files. In August, 1.4 million households deleted all music files, whereas prior to August, deletions were at much lower levels, according to Port Washington.
From the Why Not Make A Buck From All This Stuff Dept comes software that warns you if your computer is being used to download music the RIAA may sue you over. SecureTunes works by disabling specific features of file sharing programs installed on your PC.
It also provides detailed reports on the file sharing activity on a computer and will launch each time a file sharing program launches. At $2 it may be worth a try. (I haven’t.)
The RIAA PR dept may not like this, but then again, they must have been pretty busy the past coupla months: The New York Post reports that The Recording Industry Association of America is suing a 12-year-old New York City girl.
Brianna LaHara was among 261 people sued for copying thousands of songs via popular Internet file-sharing software ? and thousands more suits could be on the way. They could face penalties of up to $150,000 per song, but the RIAA has already settled some cases for as little as $3,000. The Post quoted RIAA spokeswoman Amy Weiss as saying, when asked if the association knew Brianna was 12 when it decided to sue her: “We don’t have any personal information on any of the individuals.”
Associated Press reports that the Recording Industry Association of America, which has promised to file hundreds of infringement lawsuits across the U.S. as early as this week, may announce an amnesty program for people who admit they illegally share music files across the Internet, promising not to sue them in exchange for their admission and pledge to delete the songs off their computers.
But the amnesty offer could serve to soften the RIAA’s brass-knuckle image once the earliest lawsuits are filed, giving nervous college students and others an opportunity to avoid similar legal problems if they confess to online copyright infringement.
The RIAA are not dumb. That’s for sure. AP reports that court papers filed against a Brooklyn woman fighting efforts to identify her for allegedly sharing nearly 1,000 songs over the Internet, show that “using a surprisingly astute technical procedure, the Recording Industry Association of America examined song files on the woman’s computer and traced their digital fingerprints back to the former Napster file-sharing service, which shut down in 2001 after a court ruled it violated copyright laws”.
The RIAA’s latest court papers describe in unprecedented detail some sophisticated forensic techniques used by its investigators. For example, the industry disclosed its use of a library of digital fingerprints, called “hashes,” that it said can uniquely identify MP3 music files that had been traded on the Napster service as far back as May 2000. By comparing the fingerprints of music files on a person’s computer against its library, the RIAA believes it can determine in some cases whether someone recorded a song from a legally purchased CD or downloaded it from someone else over the Internet. A sobering thought.
Just as I thought, ordinary folk have been scared away from MP3 filesharing after the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) started to get heavy a few months back. With record companies filing lawsuits against users of online file swapping services — essentially folk swapping bootleg music via the Internet — traffic at such sites seems to have dropped off by about a quarter.
The Register quotes market watcher NPD as calculating that 14.5 million US households downloaded music files in April. In May the figure fell to 12.7 million, and dropped to 10.4 million in June, the month the RIAA started getting heavy. On closer inspection, The Register says, the figures suggest that while hard-core downloaders are grabbing ever more tracks for themselves, more casual punters are holding fire.
This could all change. The RIAA last week pledged not to pursue small-scale downloaders, so could they all come swimming back? My tuppennies’ worth: Let the small fry do it. It’s a great way to check out new music. Most of them will then buy legit copies, if the price is right. For the big fish, they’re easy to spot, and easy to prosecute.
Are we all outlaws, or what? A study by Pew Internet & American Life Project from surveys fielded during March – May of 2003 (i.e. before the RIAA started sending out subpoenas) shows that 67% of Internet users who download music say they do not care about whether the music they have downloaded is copyrighted, an increase from a July-August 2000 survey which indicated 61% — of a smaller number of downloaders — said they didn?t care about the copyright status of their music files.
What does this say? Well on the surface it looks bad — although not particularly newsworthy. But on closer inspection, two things strike me:
Of course, these folk who are already downloading music are unlikely to come out and say they consider themselves felons. If they did care about copyright, then what are they doing downloading music? So I think the figures are a bit misleading.
I suspect that, all the bluster aside, the number of people downloading music is going to drop off dramatically now the RIAA is getting heavy. Not the result I think should happen, but it’s inevitable. The Net is a mysterious place and most folk (including me) don’t really know what information can be gleaned about their browsing habits, so better safe than sorry. Whether that’s going to have the intended effect of shuffling everyone off to the mall to stock up on CDs is another matter. One likely outcome is small localized clusters of CD-MP3 sharers along the lines of old mixtapes and CD-borrowing. Not that I’m condoning piracy, oh no sireee. But, now the party’s over, who’s going to go back to buying overpriced CDs just for a couple of songs you like? Share your thoughts.
Further to my earlier post about the RIAA on your tail, you can check whether they are, courtesy of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. This episode in the progress of digital copyright could prove interesting.
If you’re in the U.S., and have ever used Grokster, KaZaa or another file sharing program to download mp3 files, expect a call. The RIAA are out to get you, and they don’t care whether you’re a granny. According to Associated Press, one 50 year-old grandfather in California was shocked to learn this week that the RIAA had subpoenaed his ISP to provide his name and address for downloading songs from the internet. But the man was not the downloader – it was a member of his family.
The RIAA has served subpoenas to Internet service providers, which will ultimately end in lawsuits. TechTV has published a number of the P2P user names filed with the US District Court in Washington, DC, mainly Kazaa users. In the end this list could be massive, raising the possibility of a backlash and a half.
My tupennies’ worth? I think the RIAA should have been more circumspect. My understanding is that the vast majority of mp3 files out there are from a small number of uploaders, and if they can be closed down, the file-sharing world will be less appealing. Get rid of them and you may have little more than an informal ‘tasting net’ where folk can check out music without having to pay for it first (a little like the old cassette days). Or am I being hopelessly romantic?