May 05, 2003
Music Industry Battles and Keeping Your Eye on the Ball

The Register's Andrew Orlowski sees this fight as one where it's The RIAA Attacking Our Culture, the American Mind, relating the tactics of self-help, and the use of DRM, among other things, to cultural identity. There is some flawed and leaping logic, but mentioning having a heritage of music available is important in refocusing this debate. Copyright is about protecting artists so they can create, but ultimately making their work available to people in reasonable ways. So when Cary Sherman complains that the debate has become uncivil, the tactics described below emphasize that he and the RIAA make this uncivil, instead of just being observers of the uncivilness. Since the RIAA has a lot of power and control to steer this situation in either civil or uncivil directions, they could civilize it immediately by changing their business model. Are they maintaining such a hard line because with so many lawsuits on the fire, they have to follow some counsel's direction?

The NY Times reports (or htm) that the "music industry's five "majors" -- the Universal Music Group, a unit of Vivendi Universal; the Warner Music Group, a unit of AOL Time Warner; Sony Music Entertainment; BMG, a unit of Bertelsmann; and EMI -- have all financed the development of counterpiracy programs."

"The record companies are exploring options on new countermeasures, which some experts say have varying degrees of legality, to deter online theft: from attacking personal Internet connections so as to slow or halt downloads of pirated music to overwhelming the distribution networks with potentially malicious programs that masquerade as music files."

"Warner Music issued a statement saying: 'We do everything we feel is appropriate, within the law, in order to protect our copyrights.' A spokeswoman for Universal Music said that the company 'is engaging in legal technical measures.'"

Pam Samuelson in her MIT Tech Review interview last month mentioned that Rep. Berman's bill proposed last year would allow more far reaching tactics than those mentioned above despite the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act [CFAA] and the DMCA's anticircumvention provisions. "The CFAA has quite a lot of open-ended provisions. For example, if a rights holder accessed a user's computer and disabled use of files on that computer, that would violate CFAA. As the recording industry was contemplating how to fight back against peer-to-peer file sharing using technology, they correctly reasoned that they might, in fact, be subject to liability under the broad provisions of the CFAA or other federal or state laws that forbid, for example, trespassing on somebody else's computer system."

The countermeasures stop short of crossing the liability line, but slowing connections might still be a problem. Especially because this is punishment without due process. It's a lot of trouble for the RIAA, and it escalates the music battle to new levels. Why not they just accept that they live in a different world, and their dinosaur business models need to go, in favor of working with the market. Let's hope Apple and a few other smaller services make that clear, so the RIAA abandons this punitive nonsense.

As Pam said, "...it's important to find some solution that is the least socially disruptive -- one that also then gets a wide array of wonderful creative works into the hands of lots of different people. Because that's what ultimately the copyright system is supposed to achieve."

Posted by Mary Hodder at May 05, 2003 06:59 AM | TrackBack
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