The RIAA says I am a criminal

As further evidence that the old school music industry is in the final throes of death, you need look no further than the RIAA’s newest claim that copying a new, legally purchased music CD to your computer is a criminal act — even if you don’t give away the original CD, share the .mp3 file, or copy it to your iPod.

This startling insight into the industry’s mindset was revealed by Jennifer Pariser, Sony BMG’s litigation chief, during testimony at the trial of Jammie Thomas, a woman who was ordered by a federal court to pay $220,000 to record companies for sharing 24 songs online.

“…when an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song. [Copying a song you bought] is a nice way of saying ‘steals just one copy.'”
Jennifer Pariser
Chief of Litigation, Sony BMG

Even more astounding is the assertion by Ira Schwartz, an RIAA attorney prosecuting Jeffrey Howell, also accused of sharing music online. In a brief filed in the case, Schwartz maintains Howell created “unauthorized copies” of copyrighted materials when he transferred tunes from legally purchased CDs to his personal computer

These assertions fly in the face of decades of court decisions that say, among other things, that it was OK for consumers to make a cassette tape copy for personal use of legally obtained phonograph records or to “time-shift” a television program for later viewing by recording it automatically on a VCR. (For a quick review of the application of “Fair Use” in this scope, see this Wall Street Journal blog post “Recording TV Programs and the Law”.)

If it expands its net of harassment suits to include law-abiding fans who purchase their music, the RIAA will at last have succeeded in criminalizing the recording industry’s entire market base. If even purchasers of music can face disastrous legal fees and huge fines, where is the incentive to buy music from the old guard?

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