Yesterday I wrote about an RIAA lawsuit against someone solely for ripping legally purchased music CDs. Engadget posted an update that the lawsuit is not for ripping CDs, but rather is one of RIAA's garden-variety MP3 distribution lawsuits. A commenter on their previous post linked to the summary judgement that states as much.
While I pointed out in the previous post that the RIAA still states its belief that ripping CDs - even for personal use - is a copyright violation, they (thus far) have yet to make that argument in court. Here is a key statement from the brief (pg. 6, lines 11-20 - emphasis added):
Howell also objects to liability on the grounds that he owns compact discs (“CDs”) containing the disputed sound recordings and that he “translated” them to his computer for personal use. In support of this argument, Howell attached photographs of CDs and cases to his Response. However, the question is not whether Howell owned legitimate copies of some of the sound recordings on CD, but instead whether he distributed copies of the recordings without authorization. Howell’s right to use for personal enjoyment copyrighted works on CDs he purchased does not confer a right to distribute those works to others without Plaintiffs’ authorization. 17 U.S.C. § 106(3). As he admitted that the sound recordings were “being shared by [his] Kazaa account,” Howell is liable for distributing them in violation of the recording companies’ exclusive right.
That said, given the RIAA's rumblings, don't b e surprised when they eventually sue someone merely for ripping legally purchased CDs.
I would also point out something that may prove to be the impetus for not only the downfall of the RIAA's war on consumers, but also for the application of current copyright law - and that is the application of current statutory damages for copyright infringement to MP3 distribution. Current law allows for damages from $750 to $30,000+ per infringed work.
Given that the going rate for an MP3 is on the order of $1 per song, awarding a statutory damage of even the minimum $750 per song is absolutely outrageous - especially considering that the lawsuit is a case of distribution-by-making-available claim. Here, the RIAA made no effort to prove any actual distribution, but only that the defendant violated laws against distribution of copyrighted work merely by making it available in a publicly accessible, "shared" folder.
Clearly, the RIAA here cannot show anything close to $750 per song in actual damages - and even if the award is considered punitive rather than statutory, the punishment far outweighs the crime. The RIAA's continual pursuit of these statutory damage awards will not only result in a consumer revolt, but may actually lead to public outcry for a revision of the copyright law in question.
Of course, music labels - and thus, the RIAA - are on the verge of going the way of the dinosaur. More artists will produce and distribute their works independently, cutting out the middlemen represented by the RIAA.
IMO, it can't happen soon enough.