Joined: Oct 30, 2003
Location: Louisville, KY
|Posted: Mon Dec 22, 2003 4:23 pm Post subject:
FWIW: Court Stops Music Industry From Fingering File Sharers
|Court Stops Music Industry From Fingering File Sharers
Mon Dec 22,10:02 AM ET
By Brian Deagon
The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington dealt the recording industry a major defeat Friday in the industry's fight against music file swapping.
The court threw out a lower court ruling that forced Verizon Internet Services Inc. to give names of file swappers to the Recording Industry Association of America Inc.
Separately, the Dutch Supreme Court on Friday said the popular file-sharing program KaZaa is legal to use.
Both decisions pertain to one of the fastest growing uses of the Internet - the exchange of music, video and other forms of content between one person and another. The music industry blames the trend for an unprecedented decline in music sales and has used the courts to fight the practice.
The industry argues that music swappers are infringing on its copyrights when files are exchanged across the Internet using peer-to-peer, or P2P, file-swapping software.
Leading P2P software firms include KaZaa, Morpheus, Grokster and eDonkey.
"There are 80 million consumers worldwide who actively use this software," said Marty Lafferty, chief executive of the Distributed Computing Industry Association. At any given moment, he said, 5 million files are being traded, or 2.5 billion files each month.
The DCIA hopes to hammer out licensing agreements between content providers, ISPs and makers of the file-sharing software. Such agreements would require consumers to pay for much of what they now get for free online.
The court decisions announced Friday, Lafferty said, are just "Pyrrhic victories for one side that do not move the ball forward the way we think it needs to move forward."
In short, he said, the technology advances at a pace much faster than the recording industry can react to.
Some celebrated Friday's rulings. KaZaa founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, in a statement, called the Dutch decision "a historic victory for the evolution of the Internet and for consumers."
Verizon's lawyer, Sarah Deutsche, also issued a statement calling the latest U.S. court ruling "an important victory for all Internet users and consumers."
The RIAA, having failed in previous efforts to shut down P2P networks, has redirected its efforts against individuals who illegally trade copyrighted files. The quickest way to identify them was to make Internet service providers reveal their names. Friday's court ruling will thwart those efforts.
"This is a disappointing procedural decision, but it only changes the process by which we will file lawsuits against online infringers," said Cary Sherman, RIAA president. "The decision in no way changes our right to sue, or the fact that those who upload or download copyrighted music without authorization are engaging in illegal activity."
The RIAA said it will keep filing copyright infringement lawsuits against illegal file sharers.
But that effort will be costlier and more time consuming, in that it will have to file anonymous John Doe lawsuits and then try to identify the individual.
The RIAA had used provisions in the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act to make Internet service providers disclose identities of file swappers. While many ISPs have revealed customer names - leading to lawsuits being filed against several hundred individuals - Verizon refused to comply.
It argued the copyright law does not apply to an ISP "acting merely as a conduit for an individual using a P2P file-sharing program to exchange files."
As long as the network provider is not storing the material, it said, it is not breaking the law and cannot be forced to hand over customer identities. A three-judge panel, in a 2-1 vote, agreed.
The Dutch court ruled that developers of software like KaZaa are not liable for how individuals use their products.
∆ Cyx ∆
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