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Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Posted by Tanstaafl - Why suing college students for illegal music downloading is right - Aug. 7, 2003

While I believe Ms. Hamilton is correct for the most part, I would like a better understanding of how the idea of "fair use" applies to MP3's. If I hum a Loretta Lynn song, I'm not breaking the law. If I start selling copies of her albums without paying royalties, I'm stealing. If I xerox a page out of my text book, so that I can highlight on it, I'm not breaking the law. If I xerox whole copies and then sell them outside the campus bookstore, I should be fined and sent to jail. The question is, where in the middle is the line? If I xerox a page from my text-book, make notes in the margin, and then lend those notes to my friend, am I breaking the law? Similarly, if I buy a Loretta Lynn album, like one of the songs, and make a mix tape or CD for a friend, am I breaking the law? I think that before the RIAA subpoena's and sues college students, they should educate on where the line is, what counts as "piracy" and what does not.

Brian -- In all of your examples, the difference is the copying results in a profit. Now, from the intellectual property legal classes I've taken, I don't think this legitimately falls under "fair use" law, but, the fact that mp3 sharers are not making a profit mitigates the harm, and the legitimacy of a a court ordered injunction.

Matt -- Articles like this always worry me. While this author is certainly well educated, there are some serious problems here. Her claim regarding copyright protecting the "creation of culture" while superficially valid, neglets certain factors, particularly regarding distribution and profit taking from mass consumption media. Both audio and visual media have (for starters) a promenent "free" variety notably TV and Radio, the value of a recording is thus, by the producers own volition, devalued in the eyes of the end user. Secondly, each has an alternate revenue stream motivating the production of the media: TV sells advertising, and Radio sells advertising and live performance (as well as recordings). In the case of music specifically, the profit of record sales is predominately taken by a third party (the recording industry) which due to technology is of decreasing necessity to both production and distribution of the product. In otherwords, a needless middleman which economic forces may eliminate. This also weakens her premise about the production of "art" in which the technology has made cheap and simple for ameteur artists to produce quality work. Rock and Roll will not simply wither and die. Another premise is the creation of what she calls the "anti-copyright culture" again, no such thing exists, at least not beyond fringe fanatics. As both of you brought up, few argue the SALE of materials shouldn't be the sole providence of the artist. Its the "sharing" that is the sticking point. Simply put, the material could not sell if it was not shared since nobody would know about it. This is radio 101. The bigger issue here is that the "share" which has always been considered "fair use" is now much larger in scope. Finally, her advocacy is for greater monitoring... she doesn't seem to realize it, but what she is calling for (given what we know about the technology) is Orwellian measures on the general public.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating rampant piracy or a police state, but it troubles me when "smart" people fail to see some obvious facts, especially when those relate to new technology. Okay end rant.


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