March 30, 2004
File Sharing Lawsuits At Berkeley

Well, everybody including Mark Cuban (the owner of the Dallas Mavericks who just started blogging) is talking about music and copyright somewhere, it seems. Cuban has suddenly become very active on Pho talking about the Leahy-Hatch bill proposing to make file sharing criminal. (Side Note: Mark mentioned a company he started selling powered milk as an example toward the entrepreneurial spirit he thinks the music business and RIAA should consider, instead of fighting file sharing with lawsuits and lobbying their congress-buddies for extra big sticks to crack on the file sharers. Other Phosters are arguing back. Online discourse is fun, isn't it? And Ernie Miller notes how this puts Hatch on the side of porn companies. Oh the wicked webs we weave....)

Folks have also been talkin about the UNC Harvard study on music downloading:

    Downloads have an effect on sales which is statistically indistinguishable from zero, despite rather precise estimates. Moreover, these estimates are of moderate economic significance and are inconsistent with claims that file sharing is the primary reason for the recent decline in music sales.

Oh my. Anywho. UC Berkeley has been notified that of the 532 lawsuits filed last week, there are a few "yet-to-be-named" students. Holy-Batman, Robin! File-sharing in Berkeley! Apparently, students aren't fazed (title of the article next to the headline in yesterday's Daily Cal about the suits).

I love the quote in the c|net article:

    "It's important for everyone to understand that no one is immune from the consequences of illegally 'sharing' music files on (peer to peer) networks," RIAA President Cary Sherman said in a statement.

God forbid that anyone might get immunity! Does this mean the negotiations for immunity are over? Dang. I though we were offering two Donovan albums and a lifetime subscription to the (semi)winning Bears home football games in exchange for immunity. You go out for a cappuccino and come back to find they've totally rejected that offer. Last time I take a coffee break.

    "Lawsuits are an important part of the larger strategy to educate file sharers about the law, protect the rights of copyright owners, and encourage music fans to turn to these legitimate services."

Well, get ready to be educated folks. You know the kind! Where the law says that if you shoplift a CD from a store, you can max at up to a $1000 fine verses the $150,000 per song statutory limit for file-sharing. Woo-hoo, is that edifying. And to think they only raised our tuition 40% this year, and 30% last. Gosh, Shatzie should get on the stick with Cary Sherman cause he's missin the boat (doncha love those mixed metaphors when discussing the two of them? Sticks. Boat. I love it.)!

Anyhow, they're going for the big bucks this time says My-Thuan Tran.

    "Obviously, college students are a big part of the problem, and therefore it was only a question of time before university users would be named defendants," Sherman said. ... The association has settled more than 400 cases so far, with an average settlement of $3,000 each. "This is not a revenue-generating exercise," Sherman said.

I repeat. Not a revenue-generating exercise. Right now the suits are in the John Doe Phase, so they're being sent to Berkeley who will then identify the students, after which the students will be served. Better move quickly, though, cause school is over in 6 weeks, and then all those students from all over the world will fly to all manner of places, making service a nightmare (or fun summer vacation for those adventurous process servicers!)

One thing, in the paper version of the Daily Cal, there was a cute little yellow and red chart, detailing legal verses illegal. Not online though. But here's what it said:

    Legal vs. Illegal
    Legal: Copying a CD onto your computer, an analog or digital tape, or special audio CD-R's for personal use.

Oaky doaky. And the CD-R doesn't have to be special either. Just recordable.

    Illegal: Sharing those copyrighted files through peer-to-peer networks, instant messaging service or private local networks. Giving or lending burned CD's to others is also illegal.

Wait a minute. That last part. Yeah. What's that? No, don't think so. That is legal, and just because it's digital verses the analog tape mentioned above as legal, doesn't make the digital illegal. As long as it's non-commercial, it's okay to make a cd, or burn your iTunes or whatever, to share with a (real) friend as part of your fair use rights. Even iTunes says so with their 3 copy policy.

    Illegal: Uploading AND Downloading copyrighted music on peer-to-peer networks like Kazaa.

Yes, this is illegal under the current law. So don't be trading on P2P networks unless the content is legally sharable, lest you want an expensive Cary Sherman education.

Posted by Mary Hodder at March 30, 2004 01:44 PM | TrackBack
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