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I Should Have Been A Lawyer...

9 Sep, 2003 By: Holly J. Wagner

OK, OK, enough about EZ-D for a week or two.

For today, let's turn our attention to the virtual world, which has gotten noticeably weirder over the past couple of weeks.

The latest rounds include more reams of litigation (I knew I should have gone to law school), hearings on Capitol Hill and a new trade group for the file-sharing industry called Peer-to-Peer (P2P) United.

Now the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is offering file traders “amnesty.” Geez, if the INS was as anal about its documentation as the RIAA is, the population in several border states would shrink by half overnight.

I admit, the music industry has had a tough time since Napster launched the Ultimate Consumer Revolt. But in a nation built on mercenary capitalism, why should the music moguls be surprised when the singles-deprived public rises up in a computer-aided guerrilla rebellion?

But wait a minute, folks, there really are legitimate uses for P2P technology. Like instant messaging. Yeah, that little button down there on your toolbar — the one with the buddy list? That's P2P. So is a lot of software that allows project collaboration from geographically distant sites.

So while we are all waiting for the next round in the RIAA and the Motion Picture Association's lawsuit against trading services Morpheus and Grokster, which merely facilitate people trading files — many of which may be perfectly legal — I have to wonder what's up with thedownloadplace.com (not to be confused with CNET's download.com). Check that site out!

I surfed into this site the other day. This is not a company providing P2P software to a few high school kids looking for the latest single from Trapt. This site is charging users a monthly subscription fee to route them to sites where they can download "unlimited" movies and music. Check out the top of the home page, the part where it says “Movies Still In Theaters” and "Never Pay For A Movie Again!" I clicked the link, and titles on the list include Finding Nemo and The Matrix Reloaded.

I was unable to reach anyone at thedownloadplace.com before press time, but their veiled domain registration looks like folks who are spoiling for a fight (a domain server called NS1.1ST-AMENDMENT.NET is a clue).

Unless the entertainment industry is behind this site, somebody is charging money to help people download movies, music, games and software for free. So, let's get with the program and start choosing our battles better.

Instead of tilting at legal windmills and worrying about what some pimple-faced, no-neck teenager might do with a legitimate technology, the industry needs to retrain its artillery on the pros who are actively promoting copyright infringement. And leave everyone else (and their grandmothers) alone.

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