The RIAA is suing a Scottsdale, Ariz., man because he had about 2,000 songs on his computer that he copied from CD’s that he legally bought and still owned.
The RIAA contends in a brief that they filed with the court “that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are ‘unauthorized copies’ of copyrighted recordings.”
This is ridiculous. The music industry is suing their fans and creating such a bad reputation for themselves, the people are not buying music from the big labels, making it worse for the music industry. Instead of looking for ways to survive in the digital age, they are trying to preserve an antiquated business model that is falling apart.
Let’s look at what the law says. (For this I will rely on a Wikipedia article1.)
The law that applies here is the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992. This act provides for several things including:
- Establishes a royality payment based upon the sale of media and devices to be distributed to record labels, artists, musicians, and writers.
- A serial management copyright management system must be incorporated.
- Provides certain infringement exemptions – “No action may be brought under this title alleging infringement of copyright based on the manufacture, importation, or distribution of a digital audio recording device, a digital audio recording medium, an analog recording device, or an analog recording medium, or based on the noncommercial use by a consumer of such a device or medium for making digital musical recordings or analog musical recordings.”
To me (not a lawyer), this sounds like this lawsuit is frivolous from the standpoint of the RIAA.
But according to the Wikipedia article, there are still questions whether digital audio devices are exempt.
As mentioned earlier, “Section 1008 explicitly allows private, noncommercial home copying with ‘analog’ devices and media. The primary difficulty lies in the definition of ‘digital audio recording device.'”
But we have to really look at the intent of Congress when they passed this bill. In the Wikipedia article, they have the intent of Congress from the notes.
As the Senate Report explains, “[t]he purpose of[the Act] is to ensure the right of consumers to make analog or digital audio recordings of copyrighted music for their private, noncommercial use.” S. Rep. 102-294, at *86 (emphasis added). The Act does so through its home taping exemption, see 17 U.S.C. S 1008, which “protects all noncommercial copying by consumers of digital and analog musical recordings, ” H.R. Rep. 102-873(I), at *59.
Again, to me (not a lawyer), that this lawsuit is frivolous.
There was a lawsuit in 1998 that challenged this law, RIAA v. Diamond Multimedia, 29 F. Supp. 2d 624 (C.D. Cal. 1998). In it, the RIAA sued because the Rio Player did not include a copyright protection system and did not intend to pay royalties.
The 9th Circuit affirmed a lower district court ruling, ruling in favor of Diamond Multimedia. What they found was:
that the “digital music recording” for the purposes of the act was not intended to include songs fixed on computer hard drives. The court also held that the Rio was not a digital audio recording device for the purposes of the AHRA, because 1) the Rio reproduced files from computer hard drives, which were specifically exempted from the SCMS and Royalty payments under the act, 2) could not directly record from the radio or other transmissions.
The music industry is just grasping a straws with their failing business plan. They need to evolve with the times or they will not be around. Look at the successes of Radiohead and others giving away there music, like Big Head Todd and the Monsters. They are bypassing labels and taking their music to their fans. Making more money in the process.
I hope the court dismisses with prejudice and awards court costs to this gentleman from Arizona.
1. Wikipedia Article, Audio Home Recording Act of 1992
2. Text of Audio Home Recording Act of 1992
3. Washington Post Article, “Download Uproar: Record Industry Goes After Personal Use“
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