RIAA continues its Keystone Kops chase of downloaders

You can literally hear the Benny Hill theme music in the background as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) continues to do everything wrong, or at least three moves late in its battle against its own consumers:

Download Uproar: Record Industry Goes After Personal Use

Now, in 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."
So there you have it. If you buy a CD, you better not copy it to your computer, even solely for personal use and there's no file-sharing programming on your computer. At least that's what the RIAA keeps getting at, even though it has of yet brought it as a charge.

This fight will be a long and complicated one, but the way the RIAA is fighting it, it may be an eternal battle:

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," Beckerman says. "Every problem they're trying to solve is worse now than when they started."
--WKW

Crossposted at Williamkwolfrum.com

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