October 2003

Record Labels, Internet

Having fought to obtain subscriber and user details from the likes of Verizon and Universities, The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) filed 261 lawsuits against individuals who are ‘chronic’ abusers of internet download services on the 9th September 2003. US Copyright law allows for damages of up to $150,000 per track infringed, although the RIAA have said they are open to offers of settlement from the individuals concerned.
www.globeandmail.com report on the story of twelve-year-old Brianna Lahara’s love for TV theme songs, Christina Aguilera and the nursery song If You’re Happy and You Know It which made made her a target of the multibillion-dollar U.S. recording industry. Yesterday Brianna, a user of KaZaA, promised never again to share songs over the Internet and her mother agreed to pay $2,000 (U.S.). The RIAA issued a statement announcing that Brianna’s mother had settled for $2,000 and quoting the little girl as saying: “I am sorry for what I have done. I love music and don’t want to hurt the artists I love.” The release also quoted Ms. Torres as saying: “We understand now that file-sharing the music was illegal. You can be sure Brianna won’t be doing it any more.” The RIAA has promised to launch more than 1,000 lawsuits in a bid to stop on-line music swapping and is targeting peple who have downloaded more than 1,000 titles. www.globeandmail.com is a Canadian website, and at present no individuals are being sued in Canada – suits would be difficult because Canadian copyright law permits some copying of music for personal use. However, the Canadian Record Industry Association (CRIA) said it will continue to warn people who download music.
Several groups are organising to fight the RIAA and web sites are offering help to those being sued. “More lawsuits is not the answer,” said Wendy Seltzer, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “Does anyone think that suing 60 million American file-sharers is going to motivate them to buy more CDs? File-sharing networks represent the greatest library of music in history, and music fans would be happy to pay for access to it, if only the recording industry would let them.”
The RIAA have offered an amnesty programme for those who have already downloaded. Under the amnesty program, dubbed the “Clean Slate Program,” the RIAA claims files-sharers can avoid lawsuits if they sign a declaration pledging that they will delete all copyrighted music files from their hard drives and mp3 players, and never again share or download music illegally. The amnesty program is only available to people who the RIAA has not yet sued or subpoenaed.
The EFF comment that “The RIAA has offered ‘sham-nesty,’ not amnesty, for those sharing music online,” (EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz). “The recording industry wants file-sharers to confess guilt, while leaving these music fans vulnerable to lawsuits from record companies and music publishers and bands like Metallica that control independent music rights.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation has maintained that the recording industry should offer file-sharers a real amnesty program, for example, an opportunity to pay a reasonable monthly fee to access the music they love using file-sharing software.


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