Industry Switches To The Dark Side
Remember the Peer-To-Peer Piracy Prevention Act introduced by Representative Howard L. Berman last July? The bill would have provided a safe harbor for copyright owner "actions designed to prevent the unauthorized distribution of their works" on file sharing systems through the use of "technology that performs interdiction functions." In plain english, the law would give copyright owners 'carte blanche' to attack file sharers computers without fear of criminal prosecution or financial liability.
According to the New York Times, record labels aren't waiting for the green light from Congress as they develop hacking tools with software companies to 'interdict' file sharers' PCs and Internet connections. "Fight fire with fire!" appears to be the new mantra for the industry.
The industry has always had an interesting relation with the hacking world, such as with the SDMI Hacking challenge. The problem is that they usually end up on the losing side of the fight. In the SDMI case, the RIAA was forced to threaten legal action against Princeton University Professor Dr. Feldon to prevent him from publishing his research on cracking the SDMI watermarks.
More recently, Madonna's 'hack' of file sharing systems with fake recordings of her saying, "What the f*** do you think you're doing?" backfired as her own site was hacked in retaliation, directing fans to pirated versions of her full album . The RIAA itself can't seem to keep its own house in order as its site has been KO'ed for a good part of 2003, courtesy of disgruntled hackers.
The point is that going from suing college kids to engaging in a virtual arms race with the hacking community is akin to escalating an invasion of Grenada into a full-blown war with China. There is no overwhelming force you can exert to shut them down and there is little protection from retaliatory actions that can have much more dire consequences than shutting down riaa.org.
But beyond the faulty strategic reasoning lies the more serious legal ramifications. Even Madonna's rather innocent and colorful swipe at file sharers could be interpreted "as a deceptive trade practice, or even outright fraud" according to security columnist Mark Rasch. More importantly, absent enactment of Peer-To-Peer Piracy Prevention Act, record companies could be held liable for any damages or loss resulting from their actions. For example, one reported hack called "silence" would scan a users hard drive and delete any pirated music files. But what if it were to accidently also delete all those songs and albums I just bought from the iTunes Music Store? Or that company presentation unintentionally lost during a "freeze" of my computer? Or imagine a record label getting caught tunnelling through company firewalls to teach a lesson to uncooperative firms like Sun.
My advice to the industry: stick with the lawyers!
- Labels Aim To Shiver Pirates' Timbers
- Madonna's Borderline MP3 Tactics
- RIAA Flames Sun
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