Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What the MPAA and RIAA Want Us To Believe (and FEAR)

The MPAA and the RIAA have been very busy making sure they lock up all those file sharers out there (and as a result abolish one of the most efficient file sharing platforms out there... P2P or "peer to peer").

Before we get started, we should be clear about one thing... these institutions want to change copyright law in their favor. It's not about dealing with the low level of "piracy" that exists now. It's about having an iron clad hold on everything they own so that we, as consumers, no longer buy a copy of a song or movie... we just pay them for the privilege of borrowing it.

And, just for the record, I am not a "pirate". I own over 800 store bought DVDs. But I also believe sharing is the way cultures grow and learn. Think of a world without libraries or one where a friend can't loan you a recording of last night's Lost when you missed it. Sure you could watch it on ABC's flash site, but that site isn't there for your convenience. It's there to make sure ABC makes every possible dime it can.

Anyway... Wired has been keeping tabs on the MPAA's overtures to hold on to their intellectual property claiming that "piracy costs them billions of dollars in lost revenue each year". Oddly enough, though, the public has never seen any actual proof of this. We just have their litigation happy word for it.

If there is proof that I'm unaware of, please point it out to me (Threat Level has a nice post about how these $ estimates are "turkey"). In the meantime, here's where things stand.

(excerpts from Wired's Threat Level blog by David Kravets - click HERE for full article)
The Copyright Act says a rights holder has the exclusive right "to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending."

On Tuesday, in a lengthy telephone interview with Threat Level, two of the leading lawyers for the Motion Picture Association of America defined the Copyright Act as it applies to peer-to-peer file sharing networks: No actual transfer of the work is required, they said.

"You don't have to prove actual distribution. You need to prove there's works in the share folder, and that is distribution," said Joseph Geisman, MPAA's chief intellectual property attorney, as he described the so-called "making available" concept.

A host of digital rights groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a group of professors, labeled such an assertion as attempted copyright infringement, not covered under the Copyright Act. They claim infringement occurs only when there is actual proof of distribution -- that somebody else made downloads of a defendant's share folder.

The MPAA counters, saying that was never Congress' intent.

"If the other side is right," Goeckner said, "it's kind of open season on copyrighted works on the internet."

Related stories are linked below:

MPAA Says No Proof Needed in P2P Copyright Infringement Lawsuits

Senate Introduces IP Reform Bill Bolstering Enforcement

RIAA, MPAA Converging on Political Conventions

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