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September 14, 2003

And some just don’t care [2:33 pm]

From today’s Boston Globe, an articulation of the notion that there are far more sharers than there are litigators, and getting sued just means you lost against long odds — the youth invulnerability syndrome: Students tune out industry lawsuits [pdf]

If the record industry is to win the battle over online music-sharing, it will have to win the hearts and minds — or at least the fear — of students like O’Hara. But the day after the music lobby launched its headline-making lawsuit, O’Hara got up and did what she normally does: Download some free music.

“There are millions of students using it on a day-to-day basis. Think of BU’s population,” said O’Hara, a Paul Simon devotee. “If they’re going to start suing people, there’s a lot of people to be sued. I feel like it’s a war they’re really not going to win anytime soon.”

[...] The problem for the industry is that so far, students have looked at the risk of being sued and decided — correctly — that it is tiny. The hundreds sued represent a minuscule percentage of the 60 million people who are estimated to download music. Also, the industry is targeting only the most prolific file-sharers, those who leave their hard drives open for free downloading.

For users like O’Hara, the odds are in her favor: They’re more likely to get hit by a bus than by a lawsuit.

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Slashdot on the Times articles [11:58 am]

RIAA Bits

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File sharing in the NYTimes [11:52 am]

Several articles in the Times today stemming from this week’s onslaught of lawsuits. An odd assortment, when considered as a whole, and surprisingly uninspired. Steve Lohr tells us that the internet has made this an inevitable problem, while John Leland says that copying is now the highest cultural aspiration of Americans. Neil Strauss says that most artists are against file sharing, even though they are not making any money from CDs anyway, and Adam Liptak tells us that the record companies are out to scare us to death, with all the potential backlash.

  • Steve Lohr - Whatever Will Be Will Be Free on the Internet

    Since Gutenberg’s printing press, new technologies for creating, copying and distributing information have eroded the power of the people, or industries, in control of various media. In the last century, the pattern held true, for example, when recorded music became popular in the early 1900’s, radio in the 1920’s and cable television in recent years.

    But the heritage and design of the Internet present a particularly disruptive technology.

    [...] The Net’s free-range design, combined with the global proliferation of personal computing and low-cost communications networks, laid the foundation for the surge of innovation and new uses that became so evident by the late 1990’s. The World Wide Web is the overarching example, but others include instant messaging, online gaming and peer-to-peer file sharing. And while companies are free to build proprietary products and services in cyberspace, the basic software and communications technology of the Internet lies in the public domain — open for all to use.

    [...] What all this means for the future of intellectual property, and some businesses, is as unpredictable as the open-source revolution itself. In the music business, it seems remarkable that only a few believe the technology cannot be held in check.

  • John Leland - Beyond File-Sharing, a Nation of Copiers

    In fact, for many people, that shift has already come. Like file-sharing — which 60 million Americans have tried — cutting and pasting from the Internet is just one part of a broader shift toward all copying, all the time.

    [...] On a recent morning on Canal Street, crowds of shoppers, most past their undergraduate years, brought the metaphor to life, plucking up fake Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Kate Spade handbags. A New Jersey woman named Linda Dorian, plumping for two bootleg Vuittons, compared her purchases to downloading music. “Somehow everybody seems to be making out,” she said. “I don’t see any poor rock stars. I don’t see any poor designers.”

    Besides, she added, buying the fake is cooler, just as Grokster, a file-sharing program, has a cachet the Wal-Mart CD counter cannot match. “Shopping for copies is getting to be a trend,” she said.

    As technology has produced a new ecology of copying, it has pushed into uncharted territories of ethics and the law, said Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of “Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How It Threatens Creativity” and director of communication studies at New York University. He said he has had 10 percent of his students turn in whole papers copied from the Internet, not realizing that he could Google them into big trouble. “We’re coming up on 10 years of widespread use of the Internet,” he said. “We should have better discussions of a code of ethics for dealing with these materials. The rule of law will always incompletely and perhaps negatively affect the Internet.”

    [...] As their favorite musicians recombine digital samples to create new music, downloaders recombine digital songs in new contexts.

    “I don’t think they think of it as copying music,” said Joe Levy, deputy managing editor of Rolling Stone. “It’s a very individual experience for them. They want the songs they want in the order they want. Then it becomes not the new Mary J. Blige album, but their own mix. It’s a much more individual package of music. Kids view it as an interactive and creative act.”

    [...] A study by Forrester Research found that 68 percent of burners said they would stop if they thought they might get in serious trouble. As in sampling, the moral questions should follow the financial ones, said Josh Bernoff, the principal analyst covering media and entertainment at Forrester.

    But the process still had some hurdles to get over, Mr. Bernoff admitted. Recently he was discussing his research with an executive at a media organization that has been very aggressive about trying to discourage file-sharing. When Mr. Bernoff asked the executive how he had gotten the report, which Forrester sells for $895, the man hesitated.

    “They got a copy from one of the studios,” Mr. Bernoff said. “Here is an organization that’s saying that stealing hurts the little people, and they took our intellectual property and they shuttled it around like a text file.”

  • Neil Strauss - File-Sharing Battle Leaves Musicians Caught in Middle

    Many musicians privately wish file sharing would go away, though they are reluctant to admit it, because they do not want to seem unfriendly to their fans. So they have been happy to have the industry group play the role of bad cop. But with the escalation of the battle last week (with lawsuits filed against, among others, a 71-year-old grandfather and a 12-year-old girl), some musicians say they are beginning to wonder if the actions being taken in their name are a little extreme.This is especially true because, regardless of file sharing, they rarely see royalties.

    “It would be nice if record companies would include artists on these decisions,” said Deborah Harry of Blondie, adding that when a grandfather is sued because, unbeknownst to him, his grandchildren are downloading songs on his computer, “it’s embarrassing.”

    [...] “I don’t think anyone really understands the impact of what’s happening, and they don’t want to make a mistake,” said Allen Kovac, who runs 10th Street Entertainment, an artist management company in Los Angeles. “The impact of lawsuits on fans is a double-edged sword. If you’re a record company, do you want record company acts being persona non grata at every college campus in America?”

  • Adam Liptak - The Music Industry Reveals Its Carrots and Sticks

    MOST lawsuits have concrete and focused goals. They usually want money, from particular people in particular disputes. But the 261 suits launched by the record industry last Monday, against people who made the music files on their computers available to others, seek something else entirely: to instill fear.

    There is little question the industry can win the individual suits. Whether it can achieve its real goal is dicier all around — from the youth of so many of those named as offenders, to the very idea of using a relatively small number of lawsuits to deter tens of millions of people.

    [...] “We don’t condone copyright infringement,” said Adam Eisgrau, the executive director of the group, P2P United, “but it’s time for the R.I.A.A.’s winged monkeys to fly back to the castle and leave the Munchkins alone.”

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BMG announces the release of a copy protected CD in US [11:02 am]

SunnComm press release: BMG Releases Its First Commercial Copy-Managed CD in the U.S.

BMG, the worldwide music division of Bertelsmann AG, announced today that Arista Records will be the company´s first label in the U.S. to release a commercial CD using copy management technology. The CD, Comin´ From Where I´m From, by singer-songwriter Anthony Hamilton, will be released nationwide on September 23rd. Until now BMG´s U.S. labels have used copy management technology only on promotional CDs as part of their overall approach to protecting copyrighted content.

From BMG’s WWW site: NARM welcomes BMG and Arista’s announcement of their first copy-managed CD.

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