Is One Unauthorized Copy Of Guitar Hero Worth $7 Million?

from the copyright-law-insanity dept

JJ points us to a look at some of the sillier outcomes from the $1.92 million verdict against Jammie Thomas. Based on that, for example, sharing a single unauthorized copy of Guitar Hero 4 might put you at risk for nearly $7 million. The argument is that the game comes with 86 musical tracks, and thus a single unauthorized copy could put you at risk of infringing on the copyrights of each and every one of those songs. It's difficult to see how anyone could think this is a reasonable outcome (except for the paid mouthpieces, of course). It's yet another example of just how incredibly out of touch copyright law is these days with the way content is actually used. Copyright law was designed for situations involving commercial copying, not some kid sharing a video game with a friend. The fact that the results are so out of whack with any sort of sensible response to the actions of users should be a sign that it's time to scale back the law, not to make it even more strict as the entertainment industry insists.


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  1.  
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    TriZz (profile), Jul 10th, 2009 @ 4:43am

    It's not like this is gonna work...

    I mean, the kid that gets sued by Activision or whomever puts our Guitar Hero (I play games, but not ones that require a $100 worth of accessories to play) -- will never EVER EVER EVER become a legitimate customer. If Activision sued me to downloading a copy of their game...I wouldn't purchase anything with the word "Act" in -- due to PTSD.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2009 @ 5:11am

    EVERYBODY but the RIAA and apparently our own court system KNOWS the verdict and all it says is BULLSHIT!

    Oh, I added Blackberry to my list of boycott due to their use of U2 to promote thier phones.

    Keep it up!

     

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  3.  
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    CleverName, Jul 10th, 2009 @ 5:21am

    Wow - many questions

    "sharing a single unauthorized copy of Guitar Hero 4"

    Is there such a thing as an authorized copy ?
    What about the copy in cache during game play ?
    I have to play the game in order to listen to the included songs ?
    I thought the GH tracks were not the original, but only similar to the original song - does this change the assumed value ?

     

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    David (profile), Jul 10th, 2009 @ 5:33am

    And that is not all

    The 7 million estimate is just for the music, right? What about the software design, graphics, voices, (and trademarks :-} )

    Should come to a pretty penny!

     

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  5.  
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    That Guy, Jul 10th, 2009 @ 5:42am

    You FOrgot About One Little Thing...

    When you purchase Guitar Hero or similar titles, you are not purcashing a license or rights for the music contained in the game. Activision, Neversoft, Harmonix, etc. have already done that to allow them to include it in the game at all. So by sharing unauthorized copies of those games, you could only get hit with infringing on the publisher/distributor/creator of the game itself, not the "owners" of the content therein. Unless I'm completely wrong, which is always a possibility.

     

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  6.  
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    That Guy, Jul 10th, 2009 @ 5:45am

    Re: Wow - many questions

    Some of the tracks are original master tracks of the songs, but only some. A good deal are either covers or re-records for the game produced by the original band or an in-house talent.

     

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  7.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Jul 10th, 2009 @ 5:47am

    Re: You FOrgot About One Little Thing...

    You may be absolutely 100% correct, but when has reality ever stopped the RIAA?

     

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  8.  
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    That Guy, Jul 10th, 2009 @ 5:50am

    Re: Re: You FOrgot About One Little Thing...

    When those publisher/distributor/creators realize they are getting a piece of the pie the RIAA is suing for. That'll be my guess, since the artist's are not really speaking up for the money they are not getting reimbursed for their "losses".

     

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  9.  
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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Jul 10th, 2009 @ 5:53am

    Couple Things

    @That Guy
    First off, that is a moniker a friend of mine uses for our LAN games. Quite funny. To be serious though, that is the same thought I have. I do not think they could hit you for distribution of all of the songs. Only for the game itself. Heck, if you do not play the game and hit all of the notes, the song itself will not even be playing because you will be missing at least the guitar part or drums or whatever else you are supposed to be playing. If somebody messes up, the audio from the instrument does not play.
    Really though I think they could only hit you with one count of infringement for the game.

    @CleverName
    Some of the songs are covers, some are the actual song. As the games gain more significance and popularity, more of the songs are by the actual artists. I know that if you check out the wikipedia pages for any of the given games, they listed out which were covers and which were originals. I never checked out the listing for World Tour, but for Guitar Hero 3, they were approaching a darn good percentage of original tracks. I know if I was in a band, I would LOVE for my group's song to be on one of those games.
    With regards to the authorized copy, technically, fair use dictates you are allowed to make one backup copy of your stuff. With regards to a game on a system such as the xbox, you would have to mod the xbox to get it to read the backup though. And I am not talking about inserting a chip; for the 360 these days you just flash the ROM of the dvd drive. Have a friend who did.

     

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  10.  
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    NullOp, Jul 10th, 2009 @ 5:56am

    Think about it this way...

    Imagine you're a greedy SOB and want to gather as much loot as possible any way you can. Now you're beginning to see how a lot of minds work in the business world. As an illustration think about this: you buy insurance. What have you bought? Nothing! There is no product, nothing you can point to for your money. And its almost a sure bet that if you file a claim on the said insurance you'll be, in many cases, denied. And the best part is that in many cases its required by law! Now tell me with a straight face that's not something you'd like to get in on.

     

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  11.  
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    That Guy, Jul 10th, 2009 @ 5:58am

    Re: Re: Re: You FOrgot About One Little Thing...

    woops, I meant when the realize they are NOT getting a piece of the pie. Delicious, warm, sweet money pie made from greed, neglect, and irresponsibility.

     

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  12.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jul 10th, 2009 @ 6:59am

    Re: Think about it this way...

    "And its almost a sure bet that if you file a claim on the said insurance you'll be, in many cases, denied. And the best part is that in many cases its required by law!"

    Citation please? I just had cup of coffee number 2 and want to work myself into a rage so I can yell at some coworkers...

     

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  13.  
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    That Guy, Jul 10th, 2009 @ 7:33am

    Re: Re: Think about it this way...

    Citation: Maryland State Law requires that I have comprehensive insurance on my car or I have to pay a significant fine for every month I do not.

    I had to go through that AFTER I had registered my car in California when I moved, I hate Maryland, worst five years of my life...

     

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  14.  
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    That Guy, Jul 10th, 2009 @ 7:39am

    Re: Re: Think about it this way...

    Of course that is just my experience, don't know if that'll fire you up. Here's some fuel, Pirate Bay is wrong, the RIAA is awesome, BUSHCHENEY 2012!!!

    The above views/opinions do not represent those of That Guy and he will not be held responsible for the rages incured from above statements. That is all.

     

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  15.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Jul 10th, 2009 @ 8:02am

    Re: Re: You FOrgot About One Little Thing...

    I just had a thought about what That Guy said. Rock Band 1 has an option to copy all of the songs to the HDD so they could be played in Rock Band 2. 4 of those songs will not be copied due to licensing. So, if the producers had to pay to let you copy your own game to your own hard drive, would that not point out that copying the game yourself would make you liable on all the songs?

     

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  16.  
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    That Guy, Jul 10th, 2009 @ 8:20am

    Re: Re: Re: You FOrgot About One Little Thing...

    I may have interpretted what you said incorrectly, but I believe the way you put it you would only be liable for the 4 or so songs that would not be copied to your HDD. Since the ones copied to the HDD are already covered for "distribution" to an external machine by the developer. If you can get that info off of the Hard Drive and recode it as a music track to play in a media player, all the more power to you, you probavly have the smarts to not get caught doing it.

     

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  17.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Jul 10th, 2009 @ 9:06am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: You FOrgot About One Little Thing...

    What I'm saying is if the other songs, not those 4, are being payed for just so they can be copied by the user for the user's personal use, wouldn't copying them yourself (without the producers permission) make you liable? You are copying them without the producer's permission thus without the copyright holder's permission as well.

    The copyright holders of the 4 songs that can't be copied to Rock Band 2 obviously don't want their songs to be copied (since they wouldn't accept payment for licensing) so one would be more likely to be liable.

    This is all hypothetical because, as you say, one probably won't be caught, but so is this article. Maybe if they caught a mass bootlegger?

     

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  18.  
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    That Guy, Jul 10th, 2009 @ 9:16am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: You FOrgot About One Little Thing...

    It raises an interesting question. You can be potentially brought up on charges of infringment for movie soundtracks. What if that soundtrack contains licensed material in it from other bands, would the infringment be on the producer of the soundtrack, the producer of the movie, or the band whose song is included in the soundtrack?

     

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  19.  
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    I am boycotting so many companies I have forgoten, Jul 10th, 2009 @ 10:12am

    Copyright and boycott

    I do not give a crap anymore - very few companies get my hard earned Dollars for entertainment for their Movies, DVD's, CD's, Games, iPods, iPhones, Smart Phones and so on. Best as I can I am boycotting this crap that produces any real value.

    But I have been able to set the Dollars I would have spent on this Crap aside and have gone on some sweet vacations, since this Nazi-like enforcement started.

    How come we as a Country are chasing our Tails after IP Dollars that may be/have been uncollected or uncollectable and may not even have any value? Why are we wasting our resources on this [Courts, Attorneys and all that ilk]? While countries like China are breathing down our neck to overtake us as a World Power.

    We need a better IP Policy just as we need a better Energy Policy.

     

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  20.  
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    That Guy, Jul 10th, 2009 @ 11:49am

    If the Chinese have the will and the way to "take us over", then they deserve it as much as we do. I think its time we step down as the dominant power and let someone else take the reigns to show the world how much better or worse off it could be.

     

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  21.  
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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Jul 10th, 2009 @ 12:42pm

    Re:

    Hmmm...Apple uses U2 to promote, too. Your running out of options.

     

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  22.  
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    Stan, Aug 15th, 2009 @ 6:56am

    surefire way to avoid a lawsuit

    Don't break the law! While the settlement is indeed excessive, the guy broke the law by violating copyright! If he didn't do that he would not be sued. Silly to complain about being busted for breaking the law. Like the guy who complained to the cops that he was ripped off by his coke dealer.

    Yeah, the current copyright situation is a mess, but I have little sympathy for people who whine that they were busted. Try buying things legally instead.

     

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