Saturday, December 29, 2007

Music industry sows the wind

In the immortal words of Bugs Bunny: "You realize, of course, this means war" (emphases mine):
Download Uproar: Record Industry Goes After Personal Use - 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....

...At the Thomas trial in Minnesota, Sony BMG's chief of litigation, Jennifer Pariser, testified that "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,' " she said...
Meanwhile, in Canada, the music industry proposes to put a rather substantial tax on memory cards -- with an iPod tariff to come.


Until now a substantial number of elder geeks (i.e. people with money) have been on the sidelines of the copyright wars. For us the iPod has meant a renewed interest in music, and a steady stream of CD purchases (since we distrust DRM intensely, we don't buy online). We've been on the establishment-friendly side of Pogue's demographic copyright gulf.

But now ... Now the music industry is trying to change the rules of the game.

That's not fair. The Geek Code of Honor requires us to respond by the ancient rule of sheeps and lambs. Some will say the Code obliges us to support the theft of music and video alike, for the criminals have now become the honest outlaw.

The RIAA really shouldn't have crossed this line.

1/2/08: Turns out WaPo got it wrong, but the blogosphere is correcting. It's easy to see why WaPo jumped the gun, the RIAA's legal argument may partly rely on the fact that it has not been shown in US courts that ripping a CD is "fair use". So the RIAA hasn't pulled the trigger yet, but they've pulled back the hammer...

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