I thought it might be interesting to find out what people here think about copyright & the RIAA and whether their actions are fighting piracy or basically a cartel that inflates & fixes music prices.
The RIAA has sued more than 20,000 people in the United States for copyright infringement & up until now claimed damages on average of $750 per single pirated. However, some of the denfendants have asked for the price record companies charge to legal file-sharing services like Apple for singles sold on iTunes. Well lo & behold it isn't $750, but more like 70 cents....
The pricing information could be crucial for defendant Marie Lindor as she makes the argument that the $750-per-song damages sought by the RIAA are excessive and unconstitutionally severe. Lindor argues that the actual damages suffered by the RIAA are in line with the wholesale price per song, and if that is indeed the case, damages should be capped accordingly—between $2.80 and $7.00 per song—if infringement is proven.
Here's a little background on the case....
Lindor, like hundreds of others, was sued by the RIAA after a John Doe lawsuit resulted in her ISP turning over information to the record labels tying an IP address allegedly used for illegal downloading to her. Lindor has mounted a vigorous defense against the charges rather than settling with the RIAA as a large number of other defendants have.
The record labels are strenuously opposing Lindor's attempts to gain access to the pricing information. They have argued that it shouldn't be divulged, and if it is, it should only be done so under a protective order that would keep the data highly confidential. The RIAA regards the wholesale price per song—widely believed to be about 70¢ per track—as a trade secret.
The pricing data really may not be all that secret. Late in 2005, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer launched an investigation into price fixing by the record labels, alleging collusion between the major labels in their dealings with the online music industry. At issue are "most favored nation" clauses that require a distributor to guarantee a record label the best possible rate. Here's how it works: if Apple signs a deal with UMG for X¢ per track and later agrees to pay Sony BMG Y¢ per track, then Apple will also have to pay UMG Y¢ track, assuming X < Y.
The RIAA or Recording Industry Association of America is a trade group that represents most of the major labels & distributors of over 90% of the recorded music created in the United States. In recent years they've went to great lengths to "protect" the copyrights of the music industry from the free file-sharing services, like Kazaa. In doing so, they've....
- Claimed copying music from CD to iPod is infringement & unlawful.
- Sued parents of children who've downloaded music.
- And when that wouldn't work, sued their 13-year-old child directly.
- Have sued children as young as 12 for damages.
- Sued people who don't own a computer.
- Told a student at MIT to drop out & go to community college in order to pay a settlement with the RIAA.
- Told a family that it would have 60 days to grieve before they would have to be deposed in the RIAA's lawsuit against a dead man's estate.
In one of their latest moves, the RIAA has filed suit against AllOfMP3.com, a Russian online music store. AllOfMP3 sells their music based on volume of data downloaded, and not price per song. A song that costs 99 cents on iTunes is 12 cents at AllOfMP3. The record companies are asking for $1.65 Trillion in damages. That is more than the GDP of the Russian Federation itself....
The companies behind the claim, which include the major record labels Arista Records LLC, Warner Bros. Records Inc., Capitol Records Inc. and UMG Recordings Inc., filed the suit in a New York federal court claiming that "...Mediaservices' sites sell millions of songs by their artists without paying them 'a dime' for the right to do so."
"Defendant's entire business ... amounts to nothing more than a massive infringement of plaintiffs' exclusive rights under the Copyright Act and New York law," according to the lawsuit.
As part of their claim, the labels are seeking $150,000 USD for each of the 11 million songs that were downloaded from June to October 2006 from the AllofMP3.com website.
AllOfMP3.com claims they are within their rights, according to Russian copyright laws....
The availability over the Internet of the ALLOFMP3.com materials is authorized by the license # LS-3М-05-03 of the Russian Multimedia and Internet Society (ROMS) and license # 006/3M-05 of the Rightholders Federation for Collective Copyright Management of Works Used Interactively (FAIR). In accordance to the licenses' terms MediaServices pays license fees for all materials downloaded from the site subject to the Law of the Russian Federation "On Copyright and Related Rights."
Before the lawsuit, United States trade negotiators had threatened the Russian Federation with denied entry to the World Trade Organization over this website. Last October, Visa & Master Card stopped accepting credit card transactions from AllofMP3.
There are a lot of people on the "tubes of the internets" who want the Democrats to have hearings about the RIAA, and investigate the record industry for collusion & price fixing.