Respectful Insolence

More RIAA stupidity

This time, as part of their campaign of intimidation, they’re suing a family that doesn’t even own a computer:

A Rockmart family is being sued for illegal music file sharing, despite the fact that they don’t even own a computer.

A federal lawsuit filed this week in Rome by the Recording Industry Association of America alleges that Carma Walls, of 117 Morgan St., Rockmart, has infringed on copyrights for recorded music by sharing files over the Internet. The lawsuit seeks an injunction and requests unspecified monetary damages.

The lawsuit states, “Plaintiffs are informed and believe that Defendant, without the permission or consent of Plaintiffs, has used, and continues to use, an online media distribution system to download the copyrighted recordings, to distribute the copyrighted recordings to the public, and/or to make the copyrighted recordings available for distribution to others.”

This came as shocking news to the Walls family, who were notified of the lawsuit Friday afternoon by a newspaper reporter. James Walls, speaking on behalf of his wife and family, said they have not been served with legal papers and were unaware of the lawsuit.

After being shown a copy of the court filing, Walls said he found the whole thing bewildering.

“I don’t understand this,” Walls said. “How can they sue us when we don’t even have a computer?”

Walls also noted that his family has only resided at their current address “for less than a year.” He wondered if a prior tenant of the home had Internet access, then moved, leaving his family to be targeted instead.

And the RIAA wonders why people consider their campaign to be nothing more than a blatant shakedown, with the RIAA even going so far as to sue children. Most of the people targeted can’t afford to fight the lawsuits and end up settling, whether they actually share music or not.

Comments

  1. #1 Roman Werpachowski
    April 25, 2006

    In some legal system, when you someone and lose, the court can make you pay the other side’s legal fees. Perhaps this would be a cure?

  2. #2 Rob Knop
    April 25, 2006

    Part of the problem is that the people sued can’t afford to fight the lawsuit. The RIAA is a big bully, and the people sued are scrawny little kids (in a schoolyard analogy). As such, forcing the RIAA to pay the fees where they lost would be a drop in the bucket. Indeed, the cost of all of this to the RIAA is probably low enough that they consider it part of their marketing/advertising/lobbying budget.

    The real cure to the problem is a societal awakening as to what the RIAA (and MPAA) are really doing. It’s not protecting artists or anything like that; the only protection involved is a protection racket. They’re trying to maintain their monopoly control over media and entertainment in a world where that no longer makes sense.

    There’s a new law being proposed that would make all of this copyright madness much, much worse. Copyright enforcement laws have become too draconian already, and yet there are people who think it reasonable to make them *worse*. I blogged about it, if you want to read a much longer rant on it by me….

  3. #3 BronzeDog
    April 25, 2006

    I’m all in favor of protecting copyrighted material, but absurd SLAPPs are just barbaric.

  4. #4 Mark Paris
    April 25, 2006

    This happened in my hometown (Rome) but I must have missed the story because I was working out of town. If I were a lawyer I would take this case. I hope they can find someone to come down really, really hard on the RIAA. Too bad it didn’t happen in Alabama. That’s everyone’s favorite state for high jury settlements, and I’ll bet an Alabama jury would just love to smack it to those perverts on the Left Coast.

  5. #5 ktesibios
    April 25, 2006

    I’ve been working in the recording industry, as both engineer and techie, for nearly twenty years. I’m very intimately acquainted with how much human labor is contained in the ones and zeros that file-”sharers” so blithely pass around.

    Appropriating the product of someone else’s labor without consent, compensation or even so much as a by-your-leave is theft, pure and simple. NO amount of ranting about the evil corporate record companies will change that fact; if a company has screwed over an artist, ripping off that artist’s doesn’t ameliorate the wrong, it compounds it. I have NO sympathy whatsoever for the ripoffs.

    But, y’wanna hear something funny? My job happens to bring me into contact with a lot of very active, well-known and well-paid engineers- people who are at the top of the heap. I’ve discussed this issue with a few, and it turns out that while there’s no more sympathy for file-”sharers” in that quarter than in my own mind, there’s also very little support for the idea that the industry’s woes are the result of music piracy.

    Instead, there’s some consensus that the problems stem from such things as label monopoly (how many media companies control music distribution now? Is it still two or are we down to one now?), media monopoly (when the playlists of a thousand radio stations are dictated by a single company it stifles a lot of opportunities to bring something new to the public) and the stupid and self-serving mismanagement of a load of clueless suits who think that they can legislate, litigate and bully their way out of the consequences of their own bad decisions and who wouldn’t notice really worthy work if it were dangling from their scrotums by six-inch steel teeth.

    In the earlies, this industry got a reputation for being run by thugs and gangsters. Now it’s infested with RIAA types- lawyers and MBAs and things.

    It’s turning out that the thugs and gangsters had better ears and broader minds, and probably didn’t compare all that badly on ethics and common sense.

  6. #6 Graculus
    April 25, 2006

    Appropriating the product of someone else’s labor without consent, compensation or even so much as a by-your-leave is theft, pure and simple./i>

    What do you think is a reasonable term for copyright?

  7. #7 ktesibios
    April 26, 2006

    What do you think is a reasonable term for copyright?

    Author/artist’s lifetime- and no more.

    In fact, a fixed term like 50 years or so might work better. That would be enough to see a lot of creators from young adult to the grave or the nursing home. When its term expires, it should evaporate like the little reel-to-reel tapes on Mission Impossible.

    As for business entities like publishers and record labels, if they can’t see how they can earn a profit on a work over the life of the creator’s copyright, they’re not obligated to publish everything.

    I certainly don’t favor the sort of “w3 0wnz0rz j00″ laws which have permitted mere business entities to drag works out of the public domain and back into their piggy banks.

  8. #8 Andrew
    April 26, 2006

    “What do you think is a reasonable term for copyright?
    Author/artist’s lifetime- and no more.”

    This is too abusable as it stands. Consider a somewhat Orwellian scenario: Hot new music sensation decides she hates the music industry, cuts a deal with a tiny little independant label. Tiny label takes time to publish. Big recording company illicitly gets hold of recording, and presses a million discs in no time flat. Big recording company then sends someone around to whack hot new music sensation. Her death ends the copyright period, and big label releases immediately, beating tiny label to market. Better still, no royalties need be paid to her estate.

  9. #9 Ktesibios
    April 26, 2006

    That’s another reason why, as I said, “a fixed term like 50 years or so might work better”, although that’s not the situation I had in mind.

    I was actually thinking of a situation in which a creator dies young enough to leave behind minor children, and of creating a sort of “survivor’s benefit” for them, like Social Security did for my mom and me after my father died at 34. Make copyright heritable while keeping it to a fixed period commensurate with a typical human lifespan and you’ve covered both that and the scenario brought up by Andrew.

    The only way to eliminate all possible abuses of anything, including copyright, is to eliminate the thing itself. If we were to abolish copyright altogether, the record company in Andrew’s example could behave in exactly the same way while saving the trouble and expense of murdering the creator.

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