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RIAA Loses Again: No Legal Wins Against P2P File Sharers So Far

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has been taking a lot of people to court—basically, harassing folks in an attempt to curb file-sharing. The $220,000 verdict against Jammy Thomas got a lot of news (and probably worried a lot of folks). However, on appeal (i.e., after a new court not cherry-picked by the RIAA to try the case looked things over), the RIAA lost… again. ZDnet covered the verdict.

At its heart, the verdict reaffirms that simply making a copyrighted work available is not the same as actually distributing the work. In other words, copyright holders actually have to show harm before they can sue the pants off of people. More importantly, it lends yet more weight to the notion that our copyright laws are woefully out of date and that the RIAA has systematically overstepped the legal bounds of its authority under existing copyright law.

Fundamentally, there will need to be a reassessment of copyright and a rebalancing of the rights of copyright holders and the benefits of copyright to the general public. As Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution clearly states:

“The Congress shall have power to…promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

The goal is the promotion of the progress of science and the arts—not to enrich copyright holders. Clearly, we’ve strayed from that core mission and Congress should reaffirm its commitment to the original function of copyright.

 

By Sascha Meinrath, Director at X-Lab

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Comments

Verdict vacated, no new verdict Mike O'Donnell  –  Sep 30, 2008 6:42 PM

the verdict reaffirms that simply making a copyrighted work available is not the same as actually distributing the work

There is no verdict. The court recently vacated the old verdict, mainly due to improper jury instructions.

on appeal (i.e., after a new court not cherry-picked by the RIAA to try the case looked things over)

I am pretty sure that the original judge who issued the improper instructions discovered his own error, and reported it. Perhaps someone else will look that one up.

Mike O’Donnell
http://people.cs.uchicago.edu/~odonnell

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