RIAA and P2P Music

In an article by Fred von Lohmann, the attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the issue of all the RIAA suits against individuals who are file swapping is discussed. Lohmann, inRIAA’s college lawsuits a wrong answer | CNET News.com, argues that the Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998 makes people guilty until proven innocent because organizations can get subpoenas automatically by “merely making allegations of infringement.” (In other words, the federal court issues them automatically without review of a judge or a lawsuit being filed.) Universities are responding to these subpoenas that they don’t know who is responsible for the IP address, since they are assigned dynamically. Thus universities can’t help the RIAA – one wonders if universities are setting up their systems so they cannot know who used the offending IP address to frustrate the RIAA.

There are two underlying issues:

1. The first is how the music industry and consumers react to easy P2P (peer to peer) file swapping such as Napster and Kazaa? One way the RIAA reacted was litigation – trying to sue people away from swapping because the RIAA thinks it hurts their business. The second type of reaction to provide a convenient online legal music solution. With Apple’s Music Store I think we have a model. The third way they could react, in the long run, is to embed advertising and corporate sponsorship into the system so that swapping promotes coporate interests. A popular singer could sign songs with corporate messages, paid for by sponsors who would then want the song swapped.

2. The second major issue is law and copyright in the electronic age. The DCMA is one awkward attempt to react to the new technology. (See the EFF site on the “Unintended Consequences”.