RIAA Sues Arizona Couple for Ripping CDs12 Dec, 2007 By: Chris Tribbey
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has filed a lawsuit against an Arizona couple, accusing them of ripping CDs to MP3s and sharing the files on a peer-to-peer network.
While the lawsuit isn't the first of its kind, language included in it has caused concern that the RIAA may be trying to turn back the clock on fair use principals on what consumers can do with legally purchased media.
“It is undisputed that Defendant possessed unauthorized copies of Plaintiff's copyrighted sound recordings on his computer,” a brief filed last week reads.
A call to an RIAA spokeswoman was not returned by press time.
The suit against Scottsdale residents Pamela and Jeffrey Howell makes clear that the RIAA is mostly interested in the couple allegedly sharing 54 songs on the KaZaA P2P network, asking for $40,500 in damages. However, some believe the RIAA could be making steps toward limiting consumers making copies of media product for personal use, and that a demand that the defendants cease future copyright violations could be interpreted to mean they can no longer copy music from CDs even for personal use.
“I think they're (RIAA) trying to do two things: One is they're trying to establish ground to protect their copyright-protected property,” said Richard Bullwinkle, chief evangelist for Macrovision, a company well known for its DVD ripping protection solutions. “Two, they're slowly chipping away at what consumers can do with legally purchased music.”
DVDs are quite different in this case, and may not be affected by the outcome, Bullwinkle suggested. “CDs have no protection, while DVDs are encrypted quite vigorously,” he said. “The fair use law (resulting from Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios Inc., 1984) originated for analog media. Since then, DVD was purposefully [protected from easy copying].
“It's really not clear if fair use extends to DVD.”
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act protects copyright owners when it comes to DVD. However, studios are beginning to realize that casual customers looking for a digital copy of the content on a DVD likely aren't trying to steal anything.
“We're starting to see lots of DVD companies realize that people want a digital copy,” Bullwinkle said, pointing to DVDs of Fox's Live Free or Die Hard and Warner's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which include digital copies. Blu-ray Disc technology also includes options for managed digital copies for consumers. “The casual rippers of DVDs are not trying to steal. They want a copy in a format that works for them.”
The RIAA case will be heard in January.