Although this doesn't affect me this much as I live in the UK, I thought my US brothers and sisters might be interested.
Source: Washington Post
The top brass at the Recording Industry Association of America probably have "I Don't Like Mondays" on heavy rotation this morning, especially after a weekend where every story about their legal campaign against music piracy started off with words like "setback," "sharp blow," "struck down" and "stinging rebuke."
That's because a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled on Friday that the RIAA can't force Internet service providers to drop the dime on their customers who are suspected of illegally trading songs online.
The Washington Post took the "sharp blow" approach in its front-page story, while the Associated Press reported that "The ruling does not legalize distributing copyrighted songs over the Internet, but it will greatly increase the cost and effort for the Washington-based Recording Industry Association of America to track such activity and sue those who are swapping music online."
"Stinging rebuke" honors went to the the San Jose Mercury News editorial board, which opined today that the ruling "is also an invitation to Congress to fix copyright law not only to protect the entertainment industry but also consumers whose rights have been trampled." In a separate article on Saturday, the Mercury News said the ruling "means the secret identities of thousands of file swappers are safe for now."
The Post provided more background on the case. "The ruling throws out two lower-court decisions that gave the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) the right to subpoena the names of thousands of suspected users of file-sharing software programs without first filing lawsuits," the Post reported, explaining that the RIAA used the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act as a tool to slap consumers with subpoenas to gather evidence for file-swapping lawsuits. The RIAA has sued hundreds of file-swappers and used the threat of more suits to get people to switch from free file swapping to shelling out dough for music. More on the ruling's effects from the Post: "Consumer advocates and Internet providers hailed yesterday's ruling as an affirmation of privacy rights for Internet users in the face of a mass attack by a single industry. The recording association said it would not be deterred from protecting the business of its members and promised additional lawsuits, saying it would seek the names in a more time-consuming way," the newspaper reported.
The Merc's opinion piece said with the advent of the DMCA, Congress created a "streamlined subpoena process" and "understood that copyright holders need a quick and efficient way to counter electronic theft. But it wrote the digital copyright law in 1998, before the birth of Napster and its file-sharing offspring. So it's not surprising the law no longer meshes with technology. Unless it wins on appeal, the recording industry will lobby Congress to extend the subpoena power to theft via peer-to-peer networks. Before it consents, Congress must add protections, including notifying the individual involved, requiring judicial review and imposing penalties for abuse," the paper wrote.
Meanwhile, the ruling is "likely to hamper one of the industry's most important strategies: lawsuits against illegal file sharers," The Wall Street Journal said today. "The court struck down a lower court's ruling that had ordered Verizon Communications Inc. to turn over the identities of customers suspected of sharing music via Internet peer-to-peer services. The ruling will make it more cumbersome for the recording industry to learn the identities of major online music swappers -- and thus significantly impede the record labels' ability to quickly file large batches of lawsuits against these individuals," the newspaper reported today.
Also, here's is some great news to start the Christmas period...
Norwegian Freed in Hollywood DVD Piracy Case
OSLO (Reuters) - An Oslo appeal court cleared a 20-year-old Norwegian of DVD piracy charges on Monday, dismaying Hollywood studios who said it would spur hackers blamed for leeching billions of dollars from the movie industry worldwide.
Upholding a verdict by a lower court in January, the court said Jon Johansen had broken no law by helping to unlock a code and distribute a computer program on the Internet enabling unauthorized copying of DVD movies.
"The appeal is rejected," judge Wenche Skjeggestad said of Hollywood's second bid to win a conviction in the landmark case. The seven-strong panel of judges and data experts was unanimous in ruling that Johansen was free to copy DVDs he bought legally.
"Jon has now been cleared twice ... We're delighted," Johansen's lawyer Halvor Manshaus said. The ruling applies only in Norway but has been widely seen as a test for cyberspace copyright rules around the globe.
Johansen, dubbed "DVD Jon" by fans worldwide who see him as a hero for free speech, was on a holiday in France and did not answer when Manshaus tried to phone. "I also sent him an e-mail," Manshaus said.
The U.S. movie industry, which brought the case in a bid to stifle piracy that it says costs $3.0 billion a year in lost sales, slammed the verdict as an encouragement to hackers.
"The actions of serial hackers such as Mr. Johansen are damaging to honest consumers everywhere," the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) said in a statement. It had argued that Johansen's copying was unauthorized and therefore illegal.
"While the ruling does not affect laws outside of Norway, we believe this decision encourages circumvention of copyright that threatens consumer choice and employment in the film and television industries," it said.
The association groups Hollywood studios like Walt Disney Co., Universal Studios and Warner Bros.
OK TO COPY
The court also ruled that it was more reasonable to make a personal copy of a DVD than a book under copyright laws, for instance, because a scratch could make a DVD unusable.
Enjoy, and let me know your thoughts, if any. Please don't flame or I'll request this be locked.