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This is a journal article by a man named Daniel Reynolds who attends the University of Minnesota Law School. The article appeared in the Minnesota Journal of Law, Science, and Technology. The article gives background information about RIAA lawsuits, and proposes solutions to the file-sharing problem. The author says that the RIAA believes the lawsuits are necessary to make people respect copyrights and deter them from sharing files. The problem with this reasoning, however, is the actual result of the lawsuits. Since 2003, the number of people using file-sharing networks has more than doubled, and there have been 26,000 suits since then. The author continues by discussing the amount the file-sharers are asked to pay for a settlement. The RIAA can claim “statutory damages,” and demand $750 per song. Nearly all of the file-sharers settle, however, because legal fees are so high. A single mother named Jammie Thomas was sued for sharing files, and because the RIAA believed she did it willfully, they asked for $9,000 per song, totaling $222,000. The author believes that the RIAA is alienating the demographic they sell to with these expensive lawsuits.
The author proposes a few solutions to the file-sharing problem. First of all, he says that the government could change copyright law to make copyrights last for shorter periods of time, making less songs illegal to share. Secondly, he suggests that part of the P2P programs’ fees could be paid to the RIAA, along with part of the money paid for computers or blank CDs. These levies would be enforced if the RIAA guaranteed they would stop filing lawsuits. Lastly, the author suggests large-scale music licensing.
This article was helpful in many ways to my research. It shows that the file-sharing suits are ineffective, the settlements are unfair, and that a solution is needed. The lawsuits are simply not working to prevent file-sharing, and there are statistics to prove this. If the number of file-sharers hasn’t gone down, it seems clear that the RIAA isn’t trying to solve a problem, it is just trying to take money from students and other individuals. Secondly, charging $750 per song is absolutely ridiculous. These songs can be downloaded on iTunes for 99 cents, and it seems like these exorbitantly expensive settlement amounts are completely arbitrary. The RIAA is only angering the people it wants to sell music to, and needs a new approach.
I don’t think the government should place levies on things like computers and CDs to be paid to the RIAA, because not all people use these things for illegal purposes, and I don’t think copyright law needs to be changed. I think the best solution is large-scale licensing, like the author suggests. Here at Penn, the university has tried to prevent file sharing by giving students free access to Ruckus, a program that gives students access to many copyrighted songs. The problem with this solution is that Ruckus is not compatible with Macs, and the songs cannot be downloaded to mp3 players like iPods (without paying an additional $20 a semester). If universities offered programs like Ruckus that were compatible with all computer types, and paid the extra fees so students could play music on their iPods, there would be no incentive to download music illegally. I think this would be the best solution even though it would be expensive for the university. After all, we are paying the university tens of thousands of dollars per semester...