Download Uproar: Record Industry Goes After Personal Use

Despite more than 20,000 lawsuits filed against music fans in the years since they started finding free tunes online rather than buying CDs from record companies, the recording industry has utterly failed to halt the decline of the record album or the rise of digital music sharing. But in an unusual case in which an Arizona recipient of an RIAA letter has fought back in court rather than write a check to avoid hefty legal fees, the industry is taking its argument against music sharing one step further: in legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.

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. "I couldn't believe it when I read that," says Ray Beckerman, a New York lawyer who represents six clients who have been sued by the RIAA. "The basic principle in the law is that you have to distribute actual physical copies to be guilty of violating copyright. But recently, the industry has been going around saying that even a personal copy on your computer is a violation."

RIAA's hard-line position seems clear. Its Web site says: "If you make unauthorized copies of copyrighted music recordings, you're stealing. You're breaking the law and you could be held legally liable for thousands of dollars in damages." The industry "will continue to bring lawsuits" against those who "ignore years of warnings," RIAA spokesman Jonathan Lamy said in a statement. "It's not our first choice, but it's a necessary part of the equation. There are consequences for breaking the law." And, perhaps, for firing up your computer.

View: Full Story on the Washington Post

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Glary Utilities 2.4

Next Story

Australia's Conroy Announces Mandatory Internet Filters

41 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

"the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer."

Fortunately the RIAA has no authority to interpret the law. Copying a CD to your own computer is legal if its for your own purposes and not distribution.

Why is there so much confusion about that? It couldn't be simpler.

bottom line with RIAA is they just aint making as much money as they used to and they cant stand it! ... there just greedy as hell.

cause what do most of those guys make? 100k a year? or what?

It is coming..

One day, you will buy a cd. You will listen to it in your home entertainment setup..

You take it out to your car, want to listen to it on the way to work.. Guess what, it wont let you. You need to buy a second copy of that cd to listen to it in the second "device" (device being the player in your car vs your home).

RIDICULOUS!!

^^^ The only word for it! I'm sure some members of the RIAA, and people who work for it, will have ripped CD tracks on thier PCs!! Why don't they investigate people within thier own company, eh!?

time to hold down the RIAA!
what do they want.. they don't care the are after peoples privacy. so what if I copy the music from CD to my computer and make a play lists of this music? who cares. if they will continue this way people need to stop buying music cd's. look what will happen just because of the RIAA....

the RIAA sucks... black and white thinking *******... life is colorful not black and white...

i rip music onto my computer from purchased cd's so i can mix & match music and create a cd of my own with good tunes on......... lets face it, when you buy a album theres always a couple of tracks that are crap, so making your own cd is the perfect option. and what about Itunes now then, you can purchase music online, how can you tell it thats legal or a downloaded version from a file sharing program?? you cant!

another thing that really annoys me, they moan that people are downloading music, what do you expect its cheaper to buy online, and the price of an album is rediculous around £13 to buy a new released album, your having a laugh. Its all greed, money money money, the music industry makes to much money, same as footballers!

I think albums should be around £5 max, so more people will buy it, and record companies will make just as much money!

Im sure you agree?

this is actually funny they tried this... just shows how shady they really are.

good thing is, i have confidence in the judge to say the hell with the RIAA in a case like this... cause i think any "sane" person would have a extremely hard time trying to argue in favor of the RIAA.

cause "common sense" (aka fair use) would tell you that if you bought a music cd yourself you would be able to do pretty much anything YOU want with it for your own personal use... and that would include MP3's

I have just read something about this case, and it states in the legal documents that the mp3 files of the CD's were found in his Kazaa shared folder. That is the crux of this suit. The files were in his shared folder. If they had been elsewhere on his computer this would not have happened.

what a load of crap...
so basically we are not buying the CD's but 'renting' them?
how in the world can they tell us what to do with our legally purchased music. The RIAA is full of **** and they all just need to die. >=(

Stop worrying about music downloaders and start tracking down murderers, rapists, molestors and pedophiles.

Jeremy of Many is absolutely right - trouble is ordinary victims of crime aren't worth money to the ******* who run money making junkets like the RIAA - oh, and the artists are the poor relations in organisations like this - the label owners generously allocate a pittance to the artists who generate all that wealth - sure, popular artists do well but the real money making is reserved for the label owners

Roscomac said,
Jeremy of Many is absolutely right - trouble is ordinary victims of crime aren't worth money to the ******* who run money making junkets like the RIAA - oh, and the artists are the poor relations in organisations like this - the label owners generously allocate a pittance to the artists who generate all that wealth - sure, popular artists do well but the real money making is reserved for the label owners

your both right! .... but the sad fact is like he (Roscomac) said is... stoping murderers etc etc aint "profitable" thats why you got alot of these places like MPAA/RIAA trying to screw as many people as they can so they can line there pockets.

sad, but it's a true fact.

This article is thoroughly inaccurate. Follow up articles have corrected that the information regarding the fair use issues is NOT what he is being sued for.

I'm all for **** THE RIAA, but I'm also for returning our media to some semblance of accuracy instead of infotainment to drive the corporate ad machine...

I'm curious how they'll spin this one:

What is your stand on MP3?

This is one of those urban myths like alligators in the toilet. MP3 is just a technology and the technology itself never did anything wrong! There are lots of legal MP3s from great artists on many, many online sites. The problem is that some people use MP3 to take one copy of an album and make that copy available on the Internet for hundreds of thousands of people. That's not fair. 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.

http://web.archive.org/web/20070516072606/...ask/default.asp

Joe USer said,
I'm curious how they'll spin this one:

What is your stand on MP3?

This is one of those urban myths like alligators in the toilet. MP3 is just a technology and the technology itself never did anything wrong! There are lots of legal MP3s from great artists on many, many online sites. The problem is that some people use MP3 to take one copy of an album and make that copy available on the Internet for hundreds of thousands of people. That's not fair. 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.

http://web.archive.org/web/20070516072606/...ask/default.asp

That's pretty funny! You forgot to mention that it's an archive of the RIAA's own site. This guy's attorney needs to present that in court. At least then the plaintiff can't say much about the ripping part of the argument.

The comments above exemplify why the RIAA efforts are needed. These artists work hard and suffer greatly to bring music to the masses. Every song sold provides the artist with the needed resourses to continue their work. I look forward to the day when all illegal pirating of music comes to an end so the RIAA forces can combine with the MPAA and go after movie pirates. Once pirating ends, prices of music and movies will fall and all can enjoy new music and movies at a fraction of the current price.

You're living in a dream world. What happened before being able to rip your CDs? They were 12-18 bucks, and that was back in the early 90's. You think they'll lower the prices? You're dead wrong.

Raven said,
The comments above exemplify why the RIAA efforts are needed. These artists work hard and suffer greatly to bring music to the masses. Every song sold provides the artist with the needed resourses to continue their work. I look forward to the day when all illegal pirating of music comes to an end so the RIAA forces can combine with the MPAA and go after movie pirates. Once pirating ends, prices of music and movies will fall and all can enjoy new music and movies at a fraction of the current price.

Since you supposedly know soooo much, explain to my why CD prices went UP before the advent of P2P, while DvD prices have gone down AFTER the advent of P2P

Raven said,
The comments above exemplify why the RIAA efforts are needed. These artists work hard and suffer greatly to bring music to the masses. Every song sold provides the artist with the needed resourses to continue their work. I look forward to the day when all illegal pirating of music comes to an end so the RIAA forces can combine with the MPAA and go after movie pirates. Once pirating ends, prices of music and movies will fall and all can enjoy new music and movies at a fraction of the current price.

From your first 2 sentences I know that you know absolutely nothing about music industry and artists.
gg.

Raven said,
The comments above exemplify why the RIAA efforts are needed. These artists work hard and suffer greatly to bring music to the masses. Every song sold provides the artist with the needed resourses to continue their work. I look forward to the day when all illegal pirating of music comes to an end so the RIAA forces can combine with the MPAA and go after movie pirates. Once pirating ends, prices of music and movies will fall and all can enjoy new music and movies at a fraction of the current price.

Are you for real?

The actual artists, the creaters of the music, get a TINY fraction of the gross, with the main bulk being split between the labels and the retail outlets. The artist's are being robbed by the very virtue of existing in the industry..

... If I could guarantee my money went to the the people who really deserve it and not to some greedy thieving organisation I'd certainly buy all of my music, but it doesn't, and never will as long as the existing profit model is in place.

I don't buy industry stuff at all now, PERIOD, I buy from the individual bands themselves.. and those without means to gather my money don't get it.

hahah you seem to be a little confused, the ARTISTS dont get much of the money at all, the music companies are basically the thiefs if you ask me, they get all the money adn give the artists a small proportion. if they made music reasonable prices they woudl sell more. if everyone stopped pirating and bought at current ridiculous prices, why woudl they drop the price when they know people will pay for it, what the industry needs to realise is they need to drop the prices to reduce piracy. people will pay if they think it is a reasonable price.

Raven said,
The comments above exemplify why the RIAA efforts are needed. These artists work hard and suffer greatly to bring music to the masses. Every song sold provides the artist with the needed recourses to continue their work. I look forward to the day when all illegal pirating of music comes to an end so the RIAA forces can combine with the MPAA and go after movie pirates. Once pirating ends, prices of music and movies will fall and all can enjoy new music and movies at a fraction of the current price.

I'm a musician and own my own publishing company. I've dealt with the different companies out there concerning royalties and what not. Let me assure you, piracy really is hurting the makers of the music. I know everyone wants to think that musicians don't hurt from it, but that's not true. The labels aren't worried about that though. See, they keep 90% of the profits on sales and tours and merch. When the CD sales decrease, then the label gets less money. Then they freak out. The big name bands don't have to worry about it because the labels know that they will sell over a million units, so the expenses are paid for quite quickly, but for smaller up and coming groups, it is hard for them. The label invests a couple mill into them. This covers things like Recording Studio time, advertisements in TV, Radio, Print, producing the album and then creating the artwork for the album. Once all these things have added up, the band now owes the label that money. That money is made from album sales and tour ticket monies. So, if you take all that into consideration, you can see where stealing albums and not buying them can hurt the band. They are required, by contract, to pay the label back the costs of creating and promoting an album. Record deals are not a great thing these days. 15 years ago, they were great, but today there is so much legal mumbo-jumbo that bands really do need to bring a lawyer in to negotiate their contracts otherwise they end up, like so many bands, only getting 20% - 10% of the profits.

I abhor the tactics of the RIAA. I really do. But I do understand the side of the bands. So I guess what I'd say is, DL it, if you like it, do the band, not the label a favor, and go buy it on iTunes or go buy it from the store. I knwo what you're going to say, why do that if I already have it downloaded? Well, that's easy, so that some talented people don't get screwed by a label and they can keep making good music for you to hear. Besides, the rise of the indie labels is here and soon, the big guys won't be able to compete and it will be all good for the bands, labels and, the fans.

markjensen said,
Sumeet posted some further info in the BPN thread on this topic

It seems that Jeffrey Howell has also been filesharing his music. Not just ripping CDs to his computer.

QFT

There is no possible way, short of a worm or trojan, that the RIAA could tell that someone was copying CDs to his computer. Copying them to a shared folder on Kazaa, however, was just stupid. I would say that the RIAA has a rather strong case now.

I have 3,622 music tracks on my computer from CD's I paid for. Want to come and sue me as well?

On a serious note if that's the case, why don't they sue the companies that allow provide the rip functions in their Media Players? They don't because they are scared of being squashed by the likes of Microsoft and Apple Computers so prefer to pick on the average user in the hope they will just hand over cash.

edit: looks like I clicked the wrong reply button.