25
Sep
2008

And it's all overOver three days last October (posts here, here and here), the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) finally won their first legal victory against a peer-to-peer user.  However, nearly one year later, the victory has been overturned, and all the parties involved are heading back to court.

For those of you who don’t remember Jammie Thomas, she is a single mother that the RIAA targeted for copyright infringement after she shared 24 songs on the KaZaA network.  After the two day trial, the case went to the jury and she was found guilty and fined $9,250 per song for a total of $222,000.  It now seems the judge in the case, Judge Michael J. Davis, has overturned the ruling of the federal jury due to an improper instruction he gave.

The situation boils down to the definition of what is and is not distribution.  Does the mere act of making a file available to a peer-to-peer network constitute distribution?  The original instruction said it did not, but a hearing was held later outside the presence of the jury where the judge finally agreed with the RIAA that it does.  This creates a mistrial situation, and the previous award is now tossed.

What is slightly curious is that in the 43 page ruling (PDF link via Ars Technica) you almost wonder if Judge Davis didn’t want to find an excuse to overturn the ruling because he felt the award was excessive.

The statutory damages awarded against Thomas are not a deterrent against those who pirate music in order to profit… Thomas’s conduct was motivated by her desire to obtain the copyrighted music for her own use. The Court does not condone Thomas’s actions, but it would be a farce to say that a single mother’s acts of using Kazaa are the equivalent, for example, to the acts of global financial firms illegally infringing on copyrights in order to profit in the securities market.

While the Court does not discount Plaintiffs’ claim that, cumulatively, illegal downloading has far “reaching effects on their businesses, the damages awarded in this case are wholly disproportionate to the damages suffered by Plaintiffs. Thomas allegedly infringed on the copyrights of 24 songs, the equivalent of approximately three CDs, costing less than $54, and yet the total damages awarded is $222,000, more than five hundred [emphasis his] times the cost of buying 24 separate CDs and more than four thousand times the cost of three CDs…

Unfortunately, by using Kazaa, Thomas acted like countless other Internet users. Her alleged acts were illegal, but common. Her status as a consumer who was not seeking to harm her competitors or make a profit does not excuse her behavior. But it does make the award of hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages unprecedented and oppressive.

It would seem to this untrained legal eye that the Judge may be trying to tell the RIAA to get over itself.  I agree with the Judge that what Ms. Thomas did is illegal, but you would be hard pressed to ever say that her sharing the equivalent of three CDs could ever cost the music industry $222,000.

This is a rather large gamble, though.  There is every chance that the next jury could very well award the RIAA the original $150,000 per song they were looking for, making Ms. Thomas’ new fine a staggering $3.6 million.  My feeling is the judge may try to guide the jury to the same amount, or even less, but it still seems like a bit of a gamble to me.

I’m glad to see the RIAA can no long crow about their one and only victory they have had against file sharers thus far, and I am even happier to see a judge telling them that the judgment they are looking for is totally disproportionate to the crime.  It does concern me that Sony may get to go on the stand again and once again decree that anyone copying music from a CD they own to an MP3 file constitutes piracy, but that is a whole other kettle of fish.

29
Apr
2008
Written by  |  under Music  |  No Comments

Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)-slowly bangs his head on his desk-

Why does the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) insist on being such monumental asses? Is it a game to them? Some sort of, “Hey, let’s see if we can get away with… THIS” game of chicken they play with the music industry as a whole?

Their latest target is a company named Project Playlist that lets users, as their name implies, build playlists of music from various sources. The company does not host any files, pays royalties to performance bodies, and clearly states that they attempt to only index sites with legal music files.

Project Playlist, Inc. aspires to index and organize the music on the Internet in a responsible and efficient manner, and is therefore committed to copyright protection. Accordingly, our search engine is based upon our growing index of links to music files legally posted on the Internet for promotional or other legal purposes. Our music player allows performance of music files through streaming technology and “in-line linking” of series of hyperlinks. In that way, we make it easy for our users to create a playlist that points to a series of music files hosted on third party websites. We do not control those third party websites. We do not host music files. We do not allow uploading or downloading of music files to projectplaylist.com. We are not a “file sharing” site, peer to peer or otherwise; and we do not support or endorse illegal copying of music.

So even with all of this, and being the chosen music player of MySpace, where artists willingly post their music for promotional purposes, the RIAA has chosen to sue them.

They are using the argument that Project Playlist facilitates the piracy of third-party websites by allowing people to play the music files from these sites, which PP clearly says they do not want and will comply with any take-down notice they receive from an artist. The RIAA also tries to claim that PP pays no compensation, even though they list on their site exactly how they do pay royalties.

To me, this is like suing Apple for their iPods playing pirated music, or how about going after the makes of blank CDs for passing around pirated music on their media? The RIAA seems to have two modus operandi now: find anything online since it’s easier to track and then sue the pants off of them.

Dr. EvilI would love for someone to tell me what exactly the RIAA does now outside of suing. I mean, do they actually play any sort of productive role in the world of music, or is strictly now about how many people they can sue? I know they are supposedly about protecting the rights of musicians, and safe-guarding the copyrights of their works, but what about when all they do is antagonize the fans?

The coup de grâce of this whole thing is how all of this money the RIAA takes in is not getting to the musicians they are “protecting”. This has been discussed for a couple of months now, and, to the best of my knowledge, has not changed. So, where is all of this money going? They keep suing, they keep winning, where is all of the money? I mean, the RIAA is there to help the artists, isn’t it? And when they sue in their names, doesn’t that mean those artists should reasonably expect a payment?

Snarkiness aside, and this is just my observation, I think the RIAA knows they have hit on a money making scam the likes of which the world has never seen before. I mean, if you can go around suing people for any number of reasons that you can seemingly make up as you go along, do it for the “artists”, and then find ways to not pay it out, wouldn’t you?

All-in-all, you just have to look at this organization and wonder what the next target will be, because there is obviously no end to their war to alienate every music fan ever.

7
Apr
2008

RIAAIn December of last year, I discussed that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) had changed their position on the legality of making MP3s from your own CDs. While they had at one time said it was okay, in recent court cases that have been taking the tact that it is technically illegal to do so.

This is where it gets funny. As of this moment, and keeping in mind that you can not rip music from your own CDs, there is no legal way to have the music of the Beatles on your MP3 player. Yes, a deal is now in place for their music to be sold on iTunes, but it has not taken effect yet.

So, what should the RIAA do if someone famous, say, oh, I don’t know, the President of the United States, admitted to having Beatles songs on his iPod?

Credit goes to 9to5Mac for finding this. Now, I’m actually not saying the RIAA should go after him, but I do think this demonstrates just how silly this whole idea is. I certainly don’t think President Bush went on a torrent site and downloaded the songs, and probably some intern ripped the music from the President’s CD collection for him, but that just shows people don’t think twice about such an action, and in my thinking, they shouldn’t have to.

However, if the RIAA is going to make such a stink about this act, and even try to use it in court hearings, then I want to know they went after this evil-doer that has admitted publicly to having music on his iPod that could have only gotten there by illegal means. Come on RIAA… you seem to have big brass ones when it comes to picking on the common folk, you got what it takes for this case?

31
Dec
2007

RIAA LogoRemember that Washington Post story I talked about yesterday? The one where they’re going to try to say copying CDs you legally purchased to your computer is a copyright violation? Well, bless the good folks at Boing Boing for finding this, now missing, gem from the RIAA website.

“If you choose to take your own CDs and make copies for yourself on your computer or portable music player, that’s great. It’s your music and we want you to enjoy it at home, at work, in the car and on the jogging trail.”

This little ditty can be found on archive.org for all eternity.

The other winning statement that Boing Boing uncovered came from the Grokster trial. Mind you, this is an RIAA lawyer talking on the court record:

The record companies, my clients, have said, for some time now, and it’s been on their Website for some time now, that it’s perfectly lawful to take a CD that you’ve purchased, upload it onto your computer, put it onto your iPod. There is a very, very significant lawful commercial use for that device, going forward.”

Gee, wonder how the RIAA is going to try to weasel out of this one. They have publicly stated, on multiple occasions, that copying a CD you legally purchased to another format for your personal enjoyment is a-ok with them. What changed?  How did something that they not only at one time considered legal, but endorsed, turn into something they can add into a copyright violation case?

How are more people not seeing that the RIAA is just pure evil?  They are greedy, out-of-control, bullies that want nothing more than to squeeze every dollar out of the consumers that they can.  They feel they’ve found a new revenue stream in the form of file sharing, and they’re going to try to get every cent they can out of the people that they catch.

You know what I would like to know?  Are they giving the money they win in these cases to the artists whose music is being used in the sharing?  Where is this money going?  Who’s pocket is it ending up in?

30
Dec
2007
Written by  |  under Music  |  3 Comments

RIAABack in October I discussed a new tact that Sony Records was trying by claiming that anyone who copied music from a legally purchased CD to their computer was a pirate. The abbreviated quote is:

“When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song.” Making “a copy” of a purchased song is just “a nice way of saying ’steals just one copy’,” she said.

I was astounded by this thought, and I still am.

However, the RIAA seems to think it was a spiffy idea!

In a case filed in Arizona, part of the case filed against the defendant sites the 2,000+ music files on his computer, made from legally purchased CDs, constitute “illegal copies”. The exact quote from the source material was:

The industry’s lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are “unauthorized copies” of copyrighted recordings.

Excuse me? If I purchase a CD legally, and choose to enjoy the music in a separate fashion, that is now considered illegal? If the judge in this case was to rule in favor of the RIAA, it would make everyone who had ever done this into a criminal.

My hatred of the RIAA grows with each passing day it seems.  They will not rest until they have found a way to make money off of every aspect of music.  I have said it before, and I’ll say it again: So long as I purchased the music legally, and it is for personal enjoyment, I will listen to it any damned way I please.  I am NOT going to purchase an album as both a CD and MP3 files.  If it is for my personal enjoyment, then there is nothing wrong with me listening to it on multiple devices that are, yes, again, for my personal use.

The RIAA is so desperate to hold on to their outdated business model that they will do anything to make themselves seem relevant.  It is time for the record companies to cut their support of this association and stop making enemies of their customer base.

11
Dec
2007
Written by  |  under Music  |  1 Comment

RIAA LogoYou know, I’m awfully tired of being a pirate.

I mean, it’s hard work, ya know? You’ve always got this parrot on your shoulder, ruining your clothes… you throats all sore from saying “arrrrrrrrr” all the time… and this peg leg is MURDER on my hip!

You see, the RIAA, is up to their shenanigans again, saying how everyone who rips music, from CDs they legally purchased, is really a pirate because they never told us we could do that. This little gem of info first showed up in October during one of their court trials, and now they’re using it again.

According to the linked Ars Technica article, this latest round comes in a court case named Atlantic v. Howell, wherein a brief filed by the RIAA, the state this version of things again.

In a brief filed late last week, the RIAA said that the MP3 files on a PC owned by a file-sharing defendant who had admitted to ripping them himself were “unauthorized copies.”

I stated back in October, and will again: If I legally purchased the CD, and am making the rips for my personal enjoyment, they’re out of their minds.  I am merely choosing the medium in which I wish to listen to the item I legally (I want to keep stressing this) purchased.  I am not sharing it with anyone, I am merely doing as I please with it for my personal enjoyment.

Hopefully the RIAA will never get so greedy behind protecting artists rights that they will go after the common person who does this, but, really, would anyone be shocked?

The music industry is, again, turning in to it’s own worst enemy.  They are creating a culture where piracy takes on almost Robin Hoodesque qualities where it is you against the evil Sheriff of Nottingham who is trying to collect too much in taxes.   As always, I will state that I am NOT endorsing piracy, but what I’m saying is that groups such as the RIAA make me feel almost dirty when I buy a new CD any more.  I have vowed to buy only used CDs, to which they receive no royalties from me, and I will stick to that.  If I can’t find it used, I’ll do without.

10
Jul
2007

I often rail against the RIAA for their gestapo-style tactics against so called “pirates” (you know… like suing people who don’t even own a computer and then trying to gain illegal access to her child), but they also take out their stupidity on their supposed “friends”.

A while back I wrote about how they wanted to up the royalties for terrestrial radio, well, now they want more money out of XM and Sirius satellite radio if they are to merge. The reasoning is that both companies have invested in technologies that would allow people to record specific songs from their broadcasts. With this in mind, the RIAA feels they should have to pay both performance and distribution royalties as they will become like digital download companies.

Well, there’s a couple of problems with this reasoning (surprise, surprise).

- The companies INVESTED… not released, INVESTED. Nothing may ever come of it, so they are being penalized for merely pondering something?

- Did the RIAA ever collect royalties from radio station for people at home recording music from over the air? Nope.

- Does the RIAA forget that people get exposed to new music via air play? Are they trying to kill off radio completely?

I swear, they will soon just come door-to-door and go “Give us money… because we exist”. I am so flabbergasted by this group time, and time again. Is there no one to finally say “ENOUGH! You have enough damned money!”?

25
May
2007
Written by  |  under Music  |  1 Comment

I had heard about this, but hadn’t researched it until Luis brought it up. It seems my good friends at the RIAA are at it again, trying to find even more ways to suck money out of every corner of the suffering music industry.

Over the years, radio has been allowed to skip out of paying “public performance royalties“. While they paid the most basic royalties, they did not pay for playing them in a public forum such as over-the-air radio. So, now, the RIAA feels it is time for this to end, and that radio needs to pony up millions of dollars a year in these other royalties. This has been attempted before according to this story in the LA Times (be warned, they archive fast):

Broadcasters even successfully fought a group of singers and musicians led by Frank Sinatra in the late 1980s who tried to pressure Congress into changing the law. Broadcasters also prevailed in 1995, when Congress exempted them from new fees for digital recordings that everyone else had to pay.

There are two main reasons this is a dumb idea:

1. Where do the majority of people hear music for the first time, that, in turn, inspires them to go purchase an album? On the radio, of course. So, now say the stations have to pay higher royalties, you will have more stations out of business (see #2), more royalty free music played/less music played, and the free advertising will dry up, causing lower album sales.

2. Terrestrial radio is already in the dumps, by forcing them to pay out even more money, you will see even more stations drying up and you will soon be left with nothing but the big conglomerate run stations. The problem with this is they are run from a centralized station, so no more local news, weather, and personal touch.

This is a HORRIBLE idea, and, once again, shows the unbelievable greed of the music industry. They are literally biting the hand that feeds them, and they will then whine when record sales drop even more due to fewer people knowing of new music. And demonstrating just how out of touch the RIAA is with reality:

RIAA chief executive Mitch Bainwol indicates that music creation is suffering a decline in sales, attributing most the loss to gaps in revenue. “We clearly have a more difficult time tolerating gaps in revenues that should be there,” says Bainwol.

Really? This small lack of royalties, something you have done without for all these years, is the reason for the lack of creation? So, all those new albums out there, the vast majority of which suck, there would be even more suckage out there because these royalties would help more music get created?

Huh?

This… I hesitate to use the word… “logic” is just totally beyond me.

Old scenario:
- Music is created
- Music is played on radio in royalty free state
- Person hears music, buys crappy album for one song
- Music industry makes money

New scenario:
- Even more new music is created
- Less radio stations to play due to paying too much being paid in royalties
- Fewer people her music, buy crappy album for one song
- Music industry makes less money, but make up for it in royalties?

Am I missing something in all this?

11
Dec
2006

Luis over at BlogD has this story the other day. It seems that in a recent interview that Edgar Bronfman, head of the Warner Music Group admitted, while not admitting, that he felt his children had illegally downloaded music.

“I explained to them what I believe is right, that the principle is that stealing music is stealing music. Frankly, right is right and wrong is wrong, particularly when a parent is talking to a child. A bright line around moral responsibility is very important. I can assure you they no longer do that.”

Great, but what did he do to them?

“I think I’ll keep that within the family.”

Oh…well…I mean, as long as he had a talk with them, I am sure the RIAA, who famously go after people who have never even downloaded a song, will leave them alone. I mean, their dad TALKED with them.

I would love to go on about this, but I feel I would come dangerously close to plagiarizing what Luis said. So please, go read his thoughts on this and know that I agree with him 110% on this.

8
Dec
2006
Written by  |  under Business, Music  |  1 Comment

Luis over at BlogD had an entry today about the latest move by the RIAA to steal more money from people help the poor musicians who count on them for protection from those nasty, evil pirates! Well, according to this article, the RIAA is petitioning the courts to review the current royalty structures, not of the money that goes to the artists, but the amount of money that goes to the record companies.

*blink*

*blink blink*

As quoted by The Hollywood Reporter,”Mechanical royalties currently are out of whack with historical and international rates,” RIAA executive VP and General Counsel Steven Marks said. “We hope the judges will restore the proper balance by reducing the rate and moving to a more flexible percentage rate structure so that record companies can continue to create the sound recordings that drive revenues for music publishers.”

What this boils down to is MP3s and Ringtones were not under the old structure, so the record companies view this as their chance to redo the royalties. Here’s the kicker though, not redo to benefit the artists, but instead to lower the percentage paid to the artists and raise the percentage paid to the record companies.

This is my second article in less than a week about how greedy the music industry is, and it’s not the musicians! The “suits” are the ones getting greedier and greedier and making the industry as a whole look like a cesspool of greed. They sit and whine and whine about how CD sales are slumping, but yet you never see any real reports on the amount of digital download sales making up for that. It would seem to me to be a lot if they are so anxious to get the royalties re-written.

Instead we are told time and time again how piracy is hurting the musicians…perhaps it’s actually the fox guarding the hen house that’s hurting the musicians. I know…call me a radical if you must.

16
Oct
2006

Back in August I wrote how the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) was arguing with the consumer electronics industry over devices that allow “time shifting”, i.e. items that record from the radio for later playback. They said that this was same as “permanent ownership of copyrighted material without paying for it”. Yeah, whatever.

Well, sadly it was brought to my attention today that Creative is giving in and in their latest firmware upgrade, they have removed the ability to record FM radio from their already released devices. Basically the RIAA has demanded Creative to strip a feature out of a device that you paid for, against your will. For all they know you were recording the hog report (a regular feature on my radio stations…no…I’m not kidding), but the RIAA assumes that since you have the ability to do something illegal, you must be and they have to take that ability away from you.

May I just state for the record that the RIAA are nothing but bastards? They are so out of touch with reality that they don’t realize from a business perspective they are just making more pirates. Every move they make just makes them appear more money grubbing and the act of illegally downloading music almost seem noble. Now they take away the ability to listen to radio on your own schedule, something we do every single day with VCRs and DVRs on our TVs. For some reason the RIAA feels they know better than the entirety of the television and movie industries and that they have the right to mess with legally purchased electronic equipment because in this day and age, they can.

The funniest bit about this whole article was the 1980′s graphic they dug up that was used by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI)

Home Taping

You mean…this is a fight the recording industry has been fighting for over 20 years and we’ve been on the verge of the death of the music industry the whole time? WOW! I mean, imagine living for that long not knowing when you woke up each morning if you’re industry still existed?!? Those, brave, brave recording industry executives *sniffle*

18
Jan
2012
Written by  |  under Internet  |  No Comments

STOP SOPASOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) are just the latest two examples that the United States government are either a)totally ignorant to how the Internet works or b)they truly are in the back pocket of the media conglomerates.

Have you ever used an image you found on Google without asking permission?  You would be in violation of SOPA & PIPA and could have your site shut down.  Your hosting provider could be shut down.  Any site that links to you could be shut down.  And all of this could happen because a company, with little proof, filing a complaint against you.

If all this sounds serious, you would be correct, and that is why a large portion of the Internet is going dark today.  We can not, and will not, stand for the U.S. government crippling the Internet and causing those of us who have spent years building this fantastical resource to be gagged due to the concerns of someone being worried that someone MIGHT pirate a copy of Fast Five.

Yes, piracy is wrong.  Yes, it should be stopped.  But doing so with over reaching laws that will hand the keys to the Internet over to the likes of the RIAA and MPAA is not the solution.

SeanPAune.com will be joining the blackout today.