The recording industry goes to court

Karl Noyes

The attitudes surrounding music file-sharing have been diverse to say the least. College students love it. Madonna hates it. The Flaming Lips encourage it. The RIAA claims they are losing money because of it. So as the American tradition, the RIAA is suing everybody they can point a finger at.

After successfully leading efforts to trip and kill file-sharing giant Napster, the RIAA has stepped up efforts to quell music piracy. Mass instant messages are beginning to be sent accusing file-share users of illegal activity. Musical artist Madonna aided the RIAA by launching an anti-piracy campaign and flooding file-sharing Web sites with bogus music files.

The RIAA has targeted college campuses as well, including the University. With network controllers getting more than 100 complaints per month, the University has been spurred to address abuse of high-speed campus Internet connections. Besides targeting colleges, the RIAA has focused on file-sharing Web sites and software producers. Yet, the nature of file-sharing programs could cause these efforts to fail.

File-sharing entities such as KaZaa and Morpheus argue that their programs are merely tools and they cannot prevent people from using them for illegal purposes much like VCR manufacturers cannot prevent consumers from illegally taping and broadcasting baseball games. Napster tried a similar defense but the judge in the case ruled Napster could not blind itself to mass copyright infringements.

Either way, if the RIAA does not pursue innovation, it might be forced to pursue individual pirate. The RIAA chose four college students to be martyers, suing them for $150,000 for each recording listed on the students’ Web sites. The staggering total: $98 billion. The students settled the lawsuit Thursday for between $12,000 and $17,500 each and agreed to not illegally distribute copyrighted music, according to the RIAA. Whether the RIAA can continue to challenge millions of music pirates without inspiring boycotts and enflaming the desire to jilt the music industry remains to be seen. If anything, Madonna fans will be encouraged to keep their love on the lowdown.

Karl Noyes is a University first-year student and a member of the Daily’s editorial board.

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