A few years back, the RIAA announced they would be stopping the large scale lawsuits against consumers. At the time people speculated about the cause, but thanks to some new figures uncovered by p2pnet's Jon Newton, we can be fairly sure the reason was largely financial. In 2008, the RIAA paid over $16 million in legal fees in order to recover $391,000 through settlements. Not the best business to be in.
It gets worse the farther you go back. In 2007 they spent over $24 million to pursue alleged infringers and got back only $515,929. It 2006, it was $19 million spent to coerce people into shelling out $455,000. So in this three year period, the RIAA spent $64 million to recover about $1.3 million.
Seeing the continued spread of p2p in 2008, the RIAA may have concluded that any deterrent effect of the lawsuits was minimal at best. At that point it becomes harder to justify making all those lawyers filthy rich. Is it at least possible for the RIAA to repair their image with consumers after this PR nightmare?
On the bright side for convicted file sharer Joel Tenebaum, the 26-year-old Boston University student no longer is being ordered to pay $675,000 in damages to four record labels. The bad news? He still owes a lot of cheddar.
A Boston judge reduced the award to $67,500 for illegally downloading and sharing 30 songs online. U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner said the original amount was "out of proportion with the government's legitimate interests in compensating the plaintiffs and deterring unlawful file-sharing."
Tenebaum, while pleased as punch at having his fine reduced to 10 percent of the original amount, contends that $67,500 is "equally unpayable."
"We feel vindicated that Judge Gertner agreed that $675,000 was an unconstitutional award," Debbie Resenbaum of joelfightsback.com says. "But it is only a step along the way toward recognizing the abusiveness of the RIAA's litigation campaign."
Tenenbaum, who admitted to downloading the songs through Kazaa, had the chance to settle for $4,000 before this went to trial. He now owes $2,250 per song.
The Swedish Pirate party announced back in May that they would be providing hosting for torrent site The Pirate Bay. Now they are taking things a step further and are expected to run the site's business from within the Swedish Parliament. The Swedish Constitution, they say, would protect this endeavor with its guarantee of legal immunity for actions undertaken as part of a party's political mandate.
The Pirate Party stresses the issues of government transparency, privacy, free speech, and copyright reform. An election is coming up soon, so much of this could just be political bluster. Still, they sound pretty serious. "We can never accept the copyright industry’s way of systematically and legally harassing anyone who tries to build next-generation industries," said Pirate Party leader Rick Falkvinge.
It seems The Pirate Bay just won't die, no matter how many battles they lose. There's always someone to clean things up and fill in the missing pieces.
Vice President Joe Biden spoke at a Thursday press conference with the administration's intellectual property enforcement coordinator to outline the government's new strategy to protect the nation's copyright holders. In the speech, the VP did not, in any way, mince words. " But piracy is theft. Clean and simple. It's smash and grab. It ain't no different than smashing a window at Tiffany's and grabbing [merchandise]," said Biden.
The guidelines contain 33 recommendations. One major point is an intention to work with foreign governments to shut down infringing websites. As expected, Hollywood studios applaud the new list of recommendations. The movie and music industries contend that they are losing billions of dollars to piracy, though many have disputed the numbers. Biden also commented that ISPs should be cooperating with entertainment industry efforts to penalize users. He was likely referring to various plans for so-called "three strikes" rules that would result in users being disconnected after repeated accusations of infringement.
The document also discussed more conventional counterfeit product smuggling, but the online piracy talk stole the show. The tone was a little heavy-handed, but we should remember this is basically just a document of ideas. It's unclear what sort of enforcement activities may per pursued. Where do you come down on the issue?
If nothing else, give Jammie Thomas credit for stretching out her five minutes of fame for much longer than that. When the legal dust does finally settle, however, she'll either go down in history as the first person to take the RIAA to task over copyright infringement claims and won an unlikely victory, or the person who foolishly opted not to settle and owes the music industry a bunch of money as a result.
So far in her file sharing saga her place in history has leaned towards the latter, though after all this time, Thomas is still fighting. Everyone at this point is ready to move on, including a federal court in Minnesota, which has just appointed a special master to help mediate the case.
The decision to appoint a special master falls squarely on Judge Michael Davis and is not the result of any urging by the RIAA. Regardless, the special master inherits a four-year case littered with appeals and all kinds of legal drama. In case you somehow managed to miss it all, Thomas was found guilty of copyright infringement back in 2006 and ordered to pay $222,000. The judge later ruled that he erred in instructing the jury that the act of making songs available constitutes copyright infringement. Thomas got her retrial, only the second time around the jury increased the award to $1.92 million, an amount that would later be deemed "monstrous and shocking" and lowered to $54,000.
Since then, the RIAA has tried to settle with Thomas for $25,000, all of which would be donated to music charities. Thomas refused, and so here we are.
Read the order appointing a special master in Capitol v. Thomas-Rasset here.
File sharing service Limewire looks to be on its last legs. Late last week, the RIAA filed a motion with the court asking for a permanent injunction against Limewire offering their software. There was a possibility that the Judge could order Limewire shuttered immediately this morning. Instead, U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood is giving Limewire two weeks to respond to the motion. At that time, in all likelihood, Limewire will be ordered to close up shop.
It was just last month that Wood found that Limewire and its founder, Mark Gorton, were liable for copyright infringement. Limewire has made significant sums of cash while providing their file sharing software. Limewire's legal counsel asked for an additional two weeks to respond to the motion, but was denied. "We feel a permanent injunction is not the best course of action. It could hold back the creation of new digita-music technologies that LimeWire is in the process of developing..." the company said.
Damages have not yet been awarded, but many expect the judgment could top $1 billion. Is anyone out there still using Limewire's products? How do you feel about the precedent of a company being held liable for copyright infringement committed by users?
Taking a leaf out of the Recording Industry Association of America's (RIAA) book, the producers of the Hurt Locker on Monday instituted legal proceedings against people who illegally downloaded the critically acclaimed film from the internet. Voltage Pictures, the production company responsible for the film, fired the first salvo in the form of a copyright infringement complaint against 5,000 people. The scope of the complaint might even be expanded to accommodate more downloaders later on.
“The true names of Defendants are unknown to the Plaintiff at this time. Each Defendant is known to the Plaintiff only by the Internet Protocol (“IP”) address assigned to the Defendant by his or her Internet Service Provider on the date and at the time which the infringing activity of each Defendant was observed,” reads the complaint.
Voltage Pictures told the court that it will amend the complaint to reflect the true names of the defendants as and when it is able to identify them. And yes, the complaint also mentions the Hurt Lockers's amazing feat of six Oscar victories (probably in a bid to make a strong first impression).
The production company believes it is entitled to recover from the downloaders actual or statutory damages, costs of filing the suit and attorney fees. It is also seeking “injunctive relief” in the matter, asking the court to prohibit illegal downloaders from further downloading, pirating or hosting/storing unauthorized versions of its films.
Although RIAA has abandoned the mass lawsuit strategy, the contagion seems to be sweeping the film industry, with a consortium of film studios called the US Copyright Group filing a similar complaint against 20,000 downloaders in March.
The Supreme may take up a case revolving around the principal of the "innocent infringer" defense. This loophole is built into the Copyright Act and allows for an award of damages less than the $750 minimum. Whitney Harper was a teenager when she shared 37 songs on Limewire. She's now a college student and has been ordered to pay the RIAA $27,750, or $750 per track by a federal appeals court. That overturned a lower court ruling ordering damages of $200 per song, or $7400.
The lower court granted Harper the innocent infringer defense because she was under the age of 17 at the time of infringement. Harper claimed she didn't know what she was doing was illegal file sharing, saying she believed it to be like streaming internet radio. The appeals court said the special provisions did not apply because music CDs carry copyright notices. Harper's attorneys point out that digital files carry no such warning.
When the higher court increased the damages, the now older and wiser Harper decided to press her case with the Supreme Court. The high court still has yet to decide whether or not to accept the case. Where do you come down? Is $750 per song a reasonable damage amount here?
Users of the Japanese file-sharing service Winny are grappling with a new threat today. Trend Micro is tracking a trojan called Kenzero that steals a user's web history and posts it online until such time as the user pays up. The virus is masquerading as illegal copies of explicit Hentai games, assuring the affected individuals likely have at least some embarrassing items in their browser history.
The virus appears to be a game installation screen that requests the personal details of the user. It then posts the web history along with the personally identifiable information. Users are confronted with an email or popup demanding 1500 yen (about $16) to "settle your violation of copyright law" and remove the stolen information from the website.
The website the history is published on is owned by a shell company known to be associated with other malware scams. Security experts warn that paying the ransom is unlikely to result in the removal of the information. It's more probable that the malware makers will just sell the card number. Over 5500 users have admitted to being infected. Might be a good time to update your antivirus, in case Kenzero variants spread.
The RIAA, which represents the recording industry, was born out of frustration and anger over the loss of control of content. It’s not, to put it simply, a happy camper, and probably never will. Anything and everything the RIAA perceives as bad for the recording industry is something else for the RIAA to rail against, no matter how good that something might be for the rest of us. The RIAA is now on the warpath against net neutrality. It seems that net neutrality limits the ability of ISPs to act as its brownshirts in the RIAA's war against file sharing. So net neutrality, according to the RIAA, has gotta go.
In a filing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the RIAA is arguing that the adoption of strict net neutrality rules will limit the ability of ISPs to flexibly address illegal online file sharing. According to the RIAA, “ISPs are in a unique position to limit online theft. They control the facilities over which infringement takes place and are singularly positioned to address it at the source. Without ISP participation, it is extremely difficult to develop an effective prevention approach.”
It seems the RIAA has given up trying to sue the pants of everybody who shares files and wants ISPs to now do their dirty work. But net neutrality makes this impossible. ISPs would be limited in blocking illegal file sharing, which the RIAA wants ISPs to be actively encouraged to do.
Some large ISPs are not too keen on becoming the lapdog of the RIAA. They’ve already rejected the RIAA’s request to disconnect subscribers after three copyright violations. Rather than pander after the ISPs, the RIAA is looking to have the FCC compel the ISPs to fall into line, and police their networks for illegal file sharing.
There are others, such as Public Knowledge, the Consumer Electronics Association, and the Electric Frontier Foundation, who are opposed to the RIAA’s position. They say the FCC should keep its nose out of copyright enforcement, and so too should ISPs. Snooping or limiting service interferes with legitimate, and legal, network activity. According to them ISPs are "poorly placed to determine whether or not transfers of content are infringing or otherwise unlawful, a task generally reserved to attorneys, courts, and law enforcement.” In other words, let the RIAA do its own dirty work.