NOTE: This article is difficult to find on Lexis-Nexis. Do a powersearch and specify "Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology" as your source.
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...
NOTE: This article is difficult to find on Lexis-Nexis. You must do a powersearch and specify "UCLA Entertainment Law Review" as your source.
This is a journal article in the UCLA Entertainment Law Review. The article is by Kristy Wiehe, the Editor-in-Chief of the journal. This article examines how the RIAA uses copyright law to sue individuals, and whether or not the RIAA’s interpretation of the law is correct. The author first describes how P2P file-sharing programs work, explaining that most of them scan the user’s computer for media files, and place these files in a “shared” folder that is uploaded to the P2P network. When the files are uploaded to the network, the user is making the files available for other users to download. The RIAA claims that if these files are copyrighted material, then this “making available” is defined as copyright infringement. In the Napster case in 2001, the court agreed with the RIAA’s view. The author, however, disagrees with the RIAA’s interpretation of the law. She contends that copyright law says it is illegal to distribute copies in the form of material objects to the public, and that the RIAA should have to prove that an actual transfer of the copyrighted material took place from one user to another. Parts of copyright law are quoted in the article to make this point. She believes that without a definitive “transfer of ownership,” the RIAA should not be able to sue someone. The RIAA believes that the “making available” of files is considered distribution, and this is the fundamental disagreement between the RIAA and the author.
In addition, the author compares the use of these lawsuits to stop file-sharing to an “effort to rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic.” The problem is so large that suing a few individuals will most likely not fix it. The solution proposed in the article is for the record companies to make it “economically rational” for consumers to pay for music files instead of downloading them illegally. She suggests pricing that asymptotically approaches zero as the number of songs purchased increases. Therefore, if a person downloads thousands of songs, they won’t have to make extremely high payments.
I strongly agree with the author’s interpretation of copyright law, and I believe that the record companies should have to present more proof than a file being in a “shared folder” in order to file a lawsuit. Also, the P2P programs should eliminate their scanning programs because there is a significant chance that they could incriminate an unknowing person who has legally obtained copyrighted work and stored it on his or her computer. Proof of a transfer should be necessary for a lawsuit, and it is also questionable whether or not an mp3 file is a “material object.” People are being sued without concrete proof of infringement, and the RIAA needs to be stopped from abusing the law to gain money. This argument will be part of my contention that these suits are unfair.
The author’s suggested business solution may be unfair to the record companies, but these companies certainly need to focus on making large-scale changes to their sales techniques.
This is a newspaper article by Amy Brittain that appeared in the Christian Science Monitor on June 18, 2007. The article provides basic statistics about the RIAA’s file sharing lawsuits, makes an argument in support of the RIAA, and gives examples of solutions being implemented at some universities. The article says that since 1999, physical music sales have declined 30 percent, and that two-thirds of college students’ music was illegally obtained. Recording companies have suffered millions of dollars in losses, and the author reminds us that, “For every one Justin Timberlake, there are hundreds of sound-technicians, backup singers, and retail workers who are hurt by illegal downloading.” As a result of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act in 1998, universities are protected from file-sharing lawsuits, and this is why individual students are being sued.
Some universities have tried to solve the problem by forcing students to install programs that block the use of P2P programs, and others have started to use campus-wide filters that “stop the flow” of copyrighted material.
This article is important to my paper because it gives examples of possible solutions that, in my opinion, are completely unfair to the students. These solutions are the exact WRONG way to solve the file-sharing problem. Blocking P2P programs is unfair because they can be used in many legal ways. Students should be allowed to share non-copyrighted material over the internet as much as they please. That is one of the basic functions of the internet. This right should not be taken away because the RIAA is unhappy. Also, where would these types of restrictions end? Would universities eventually block email programs because copyrighted music files can be distributed by email? Filters that block the distribution of copyrighted material are a better idea. But what if the student has a fair use for the copyrighted material? Shouldn’t he or she have access to this material to use in projects or presentations for media studies classes?
This article’s argument in favor of the RIAA goes against my thesis, but it does make sense. There are many people who are hurt by copyright infringement, which is unfortunate, but a FAIR solution must be implemented to help these people.