When The RIAA Loses Its Mind

I appreciate the fact that the music business is in the midst of considerable turmoil. CD sales are abysmal, record companies are losing a lot of mone

I appreciate the fact that the music business is in the midst of considerable turmoil. CD sales are abysmal, record companies are losing a lot of money, and music pirating has become fairly routine, prompting thousands of lawsuits from the RIAA against consumers. It’s an industry facing major, system challenges.

But if the music business wants to get back on track, this definitely isn’t the way to do it.

[I]n 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.

“I couldn’t believe it when I read that,” says Ray Beckerman, a New York lawyer who represents six clients who have been sued by the RIAA. “The basic principle in the law is that you have to distribute actual physical copies to be guilty of violating copyright. But recently, the industry has been going around saying that even a personal copy on your computer is a violation.”

It’s as if the industry is anxious to destroy any remaining goodwill it may have left.


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