There's a really big court case going on right now in Duluth, Minnesota. That trial by jury involves a fellow by the name of Jammie Thomas who has been accused of uploading 1,700 songs to the KaZaA P2P network, songs that he obviously didn't own the copyrights to. And as expected, Capitol Records decided to sue the pants off Thomas.
So a jury was pulled together and the case heard its opening statements yesterday. Once the opening statements were concluded, the record label plantifs called their first witness; Jennifer Pariser, the head of litigation for Sony BMG. Imagine what she said.
She said quite bluntly that when an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, Sony can say he stole a song. "Making "a copy" of a purchased song is just "a nice way of saying 'steals just one copy'.
Jennifer has apparently never heard of 'Fair Use' and the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act'. Both of those American doctrines tell us that people do have the right to back-up and or copy their CD's for personal use. The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) agrees, having told the US Supreme Court last year that it is perfectly lawful to rip a CD (that you've legally purchased and own) to your computer and or portable music player. The line becomes blurred when users are forced to crack their way through the root kits (courtesy of Sony) and DRM that infects many of the CD's available for purchase.
Unfortunately, the RIAA is hoping to have portions of the DMCA re-written to forbid the backing-up of audio CD's and (and movies DVD's if the MPAA gets involved).
It's still a crime to upload that music to the Internet or P2P for all to share. Unless you live in Canada where the Supreme Court has said that sharing music on-line is not a crime.
Continuing her testimony she called file-sharing a "tremendous problem affecting the music industry" that "causes several billions of dollars of harm" to the labels (every year I suppose). "It's important to combat," and "If we don't, we have no business." Oddly enough, some recent studies (conducted outside of the RIAA) suggesting that music piracy only costs (collectively) the music labels $7 to $15 million per year, and perhaps up to $30 million, not billions. In fact, counterfeit CD's (the knock-off's sold on street corners) account for a higher piracy figure since they are mass produced and tend to displace the legitimate CD's sold in stores.
Though the case of Capitol Records versus Jammie Thomas has just gotten started, the future of fair use may hinge upon the jury's final decision, a decision that could be weeks or months away.
Perhaps Thomas could simply testify that he had uploaded his music to KaAzA as a means of backing it up. Guaranteed, those songs will be there forever, or at least until KaZaA, the Internet or humanity dies. Which will happen first?
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