The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is targeting an Arizona man for ripping music onto his PC from CDs he bought legally. The RIAA says it's illegal for someone to copy music to their PC, even if the CDs were legally bought.Digital Journal, Op-Ed -- If Jeffrey Howell loses his case against the RIAA, the precedent in the U.S. would be both completely ridiculous and utterly dangerous.
The Scottsdale, Arizona resident is being targeted by the recording industry for keeping his collection of about 2,000 songs on his computer. He bought them on CD and transferred them to his computer, which the RIAA says is illegal.
The case is not new (Howell was first brought into the file-sharing legal mix in 2006), but the RIAA has filed a supplemental brief that says ripping music from legally purchased CDs is illegal. On page 15 of the document, it reads: "It is undisputed that Defendant possessed unauthorized copies of Plaintiffs’ copyrighted sound recordings on his computer...Virtually all of the sound recordings on Exhibit B are in the “.mp3” format...Defendant admitted that he converted these sound recordings from their original format to the .mp3 format for his and his wife’s use."
If the judge rules in favour of the RIAA (which most people believe is highly unlikely), any person in the U.S. who has ever copied music to their PC that they legally purchased on CD could become a target. In short, it would mean almost every iPod owner could be classed a copyright thief.
Howell has been accused of sharing music through the file-sharing giant Kazaa, but he says they were never shared and that his files were solely for personal use. He has until Jan. 11 to respond.
Many industry pundits argue the recording industry has no chance of successfully winning this court case. As Business Week's Stephen Wildstrom writes, "The music industry may be dumb enough to try this, but its chances of success are nil."
The blog world is bulging at its virtual seams with reports about Howell after the Washington Postran this article in its Sunday edition. The Post reports, "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."
The RIAA is grabbing on to whatever it can in its barren attempt to quash music piracy. Jammie Thomas, a single mother, was also recently brought to court by the RIAA for what it called illegally sharing 1,702 songs. In this case, Jennifer Pariser, head of litigation at Sony BMG, said “When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song.” Making “a copy” of a purchased song is just “a nice way of saying ’steals just one copy’.”
The interesting part in the case against Howell is why the RIAA wants to waste its time; the Audio Home Recording Act (17 US 1008) says a citizen cannot be sued for making a digital copy of a song, as long as it's for personal use. The Act reads: "No action may be brought under this title alleging infringement of copyright based on the manufacture, importation, or distribution of a digital audio recording device, a digital audio recording medium, an analog recording device, or an analog recording medium, or based on the noncommercial use by a consumer of such a device or medium for making digital musical recordings or analog musical recordings."
And the recording industry wonders why everyone hates them.
As the Washington Post Notes: "The RIAA's legal crusade against its customers is a classic example of an old media company clinging to a business model that has collapsed. Four years of a failed strategy has only 'created a whole market of people who specifically look to buy independent goods so as not to deal with the big record companies...'Every problem they're trying to solve is worse now than when they started'."