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Music Industry Uses IM to Warn Pirates
By Eric de Fontenay (Founder & Publisher)
(more articles from this author)
2003-05-01
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From recent feedback, there seems to be some confusion regarding my editorials on last week's court decisions. For example, I see the Grokster/Streamcast case as being entirely different to the Verizon-RIAA case. Technology should not be held liable for criminals acts, criminals should. The Verizon-RIAA case, on the other hand, revolves around the issue of how to track those criminals for warning/prosecutions and what should be the standard by which we find whether someone has committed a criminal act.

The first issue is a technical one: should Verizon be forced to comply with the RIAA subpoenas when the illicit files in question are in fact stored on the alleged pirates' PC versus Verizon-owned equipment such as servers. Thus contends Verizon, the subpoenas do not meet the requirements set by DMCA. While this legal 'splitting-of-hairs' may eventually work in the courts (doubtful), it neglects the key role played by Verizon as the internet access provider and therefore gateway between the alleged pirates PC and the greater file sharing community.

Clearly, Verizon should not be held liable for the illicit use of its service, but nor should Verizon protect the individuals that perpetrate them. The RIAA is not asking Verizon to block all illicit files from its network as it demanded from Napster, nor is it attempting to hold Verizon liable (yet) for any perceived damages from such sharing over its facilities. The case simply involves subpoenaing information that will allow it to enforce the rights of its members under federal law. It's like the police requesting On-Star to track & locate a stolen car equipped with their service. Of course in this case, law enforcement, not the car-owner, is making the request and the theft of property is cut-&-clear

The problem with the Verizon case is a lack of standards. If the RIAA's claim of one Verizon customer making "over 600 copyrighted music files over the Internet" is true, I believe most reasonable individuals would agree that it is an example of blatant piracy that should be prosecuted. Same goes for the operators of those 'local area Napster networks' at various universities being sued by the RIAA. But who should set the standard of what is 'prosecutable' piracy? The RIAA?

Various music industry organizations have in fact started sending copyright warning messages to file sharers that offer "significant numbers of copyrighted songs" through p2p systems. The move is a welcome one over that might be even more effective than contentious subpoenas, but what's "significant"? Should we expect a friendly 'warning' for sharing 10 files? 50? 100? How about 50 files, but they're from just 4 albums? And who's to ensure that individuals are not harassed for exerting their fair use rights by overzealous copyright holders?

Related News from Mi2N:
» Statement Of Thomas F. Lee, President, American Federation Of Musicians, Regarding Copyright Warning Messages On Peer-To-Peer Networks


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