RIAA's New War: Shutting Down The Equivalent Of Internet VCRs

from the the-virtual-boston-strangler dept

The entertainment industry just won’t quit trying to kill perfectly legal technologies with substantial non-infringing uses. Back during the big legal fight over Grokster, the RIAA insisted that it had absolutely no interest in stopping technologies people used to record things. In fact, Consumer Electronics Association CEO Gary Shapiro reminded them of this promise after the RIAA went after XM Radio’s device to record broadcasts. It appears that the RIAA has no problem continuing to go against its word. Its latest move is to send a letter to CNET, asking it to remove tools from Download.com that can be used to record videos from YouTube. Of course, there a tons of legitimate uses for such tools. Just as you can legally record shows off of TV (thank you Supreme Court), you should be able to record stuff on YouTube (related: shame on Google for blocking such tools as well).

Of course, from the parts of the RIAA’s request that have been made public by Greg Sandoval at CNET, it sounds like the RIAA isn’t directly making a legal threat (which would be tough, given CNET’s role as a fourth party service provider for third party tools which might be used to infringe), but rather appealing to its parent company, CBS, arguing that because such tools and their substantial non-infringing uses might also be used to record CBS content (again, just like the VCR), that they should want to put an end to them.. Thankfully, it sounds like CNET has no interest in complying.

However, given the RIAA’s promises during the Grokster case that it had no interest in blocking such technologies, it seems that, once again, the RIAA has been shown as liars who have no compunction about blocking perfectly legal technologies, just because they haven’t figured out how to adapt to modern times.

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: cbs, cnet, google, grokster, riaa, youtube

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Comments on “RIAA's New War: Shutting Down The Equivalent Of Internet VCRs”

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el_segfaulto (profile) says:

See you guys...

A few days ago my lovely girlfriend bought a piano which is now taking up a chunk of space in my living room. Now I’ve never been a musical genius so when I started messing around with it I didn’t really see a problem. I had been getting a little better and managed to perform a piano version of a Metallica song.

No sooner had I finished the last note then a team of leather clad RIAA ninjas broke down my front door and handcuffed me on the spot. My neighbors and their newborn were brought out at gunpoint for the audacity of broadcasting my performance over a Skype conversation with their relatives.

Needless to say, I’ve quite my freetard ways. We’re all in a re-education camp and have learned to leave music to the professionals, and that listening without permission is tantamount to stealing.

Anonymous Coward says:

if they cant use it, then no one else should be able to use it either. typical selfish, self centered attitude of extremely small-minded, jealous person(s). i wonder how much harm they have actually got to do before those with the powers to stop them will actually do so. there’s a vast difference between trying to protect your own business, whilst refusing to advance into the digital age and stopping everyone else from moving forward and developing their own business

Robert (profile) says:

$3.2 million down the toilet

Cary Sherman’s salary is truly a waste of money. The guy should be getting no more than $200k/yr to do what he does.

The remaining $3 million should go into a fund to help artists who’ve been screwed over by the RIAA. Not the labels via bad contracts, I mean the artist whom had legitimate use of many products and services the RIAA has succeeded in shutting down.

It may not be much when split across the large number of artists who’ve been hurt by the RIAA antics, but it’s better than nothing (or ASCAP or SOCAN).

Then take Barry Sookman’s salary, cut that to $80k and give the rest to a fund to help those who have been wrongfully sued (don’t ask for it if you were really sharing files only, if you were not).

Finally, make it illegal to lobby government for laws via any financial means, direct or indirect. Any attempt to destroy products that have both good and bad uses (knives are OK, they are used to kill people or cut food – but they are not banned) as an attempt to maintain monopolistic control should result in extradition to Antarctica.

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

Well to be fair...

The RIAA was correct.


“The RIAA and music publishers, concerned that consumers’ ability to make perfect digital copies of music would destroy the market for audio recordings…”

They were 100% correct. Consumers’ ability to acquire perfect digital copies of music did destroy the market for audio recordings.

And the world did not fall into chaos.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is probably going to start a flame war, but the last time I heard anything about CNet’s Download.com site, it was for putting wrapper installers around software before distributing them. The whole Fyodor issue with NMAP to be precise. So how can they be fourth liability, if they are manipulating and hosting the files being distributed?

Anonymous Coward says:

The tipping point is nigh.

The closer their end the RIAA gets, the more we experience their lying, their faux anger, the utter absurdity of their mere existence and the more it becomes apparent that the RIAA is the real the enemy and the more despised they become to the general public they try to enslave.

The tipping point is nigh.

The RIAA and its ilk are like Hosni Mubarak (always much-hated and now on their way out with only crooked pseudo-government and expensive life-support keeps them from flat-lining completely).

And like in Mubarak’s case, everyone will celebrate by dancing on their graves when they’re finally gone for good.

And not a moment too soon at that.

average_joe (profile) says:

Just as you can legally record shows off of TV (thank you Supreme Court), you should be able to record stuff on YouTube (related: shame on Google for blocking such tools as well).

Your reading of Sony is a bit of wishful thinking. It’s not that simple. Even Prof. Goldman in the linked-to article says it’s murky. I’ll take his analysis over yours on that point.

Rikuo (profile) says:


We can legally record shows that are on our TV. What about if one of us hooks up our computer to a TV (not a computer monitor, a TV). In fact, that’s what I have right now, my machine is connected to a large TV as primary display (gaming, movies) and a secondary monitor to keep an eye on downloads/IRC chats/temps, things like that.
Since its legal to record what’s on TV, and Youtube is being shown on my TV…

Anonymous Coward says:

$3.2 million down the toilet

… same as outlawing lobbying (not that i’m opposed to that).

You want to propose some subsitute language? Instead of:

Congress shall make no law .?.?. abridging .?.?. the right of the people .?.?. to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Perhaps it should be amended to read, ?Congress shall be empowered to prohibit people from suggesting legislation. Anybody who really annoys Congress with inopportune petitioning may be thrown in jail.?

Emily Z says:


Yeah, if you download the videos from YouTube, Google doesn’t make any advertising money on you anymore. I think it’s reasonable for them to say you’re only allowed to use their resources to stream, and not allowed to use their resources to fileshare videos.

I think it would be better for them if they let everyone in your family download your niece’s recital, as it would free up resources, but I think they should be allowed to disallow downloads.

Ophelia Millais says:


Offering a download button exposes streaming, user-uploaded content services to potential contributory or vicarious liability for copyright infringement when the button is used to make an unauthorized copy.

Additionally, service providers and software makers who provide a means of bypassing technological measures designed to prevent unauthorized copying (streaming tech is likely such a measure) may be liable under DMCA section 1201(b) for $200 to $2,500 “per act of circumvention, device, product, component, offer, or performance of service.”

To the extent that the RIAA had a hand in crafting the DMCA and litigating cases which support these interpretations of U.S. copyright law, Google could be said to be blocking downloads because the RIAA said so.

Anonymous Coward says:


LOL! No. I have SageTV distributed throughout my house. Five tuners and eight terabytes of storage. Plus Roku boxes with Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus. Also do 3-disc plan with Netflix, as well as an avid user of the Blockbuster DVD kiosk that’s down the street. Plus have large collection of DVDs that I’ve bought. No VCRs though.

Ophelia Millais says:


Sorry to nitpick, but the word used was “bovine,” which means cow-like, not pig-like. It wasn’t in reference to Masnick himself, but to what Maria Bustillos characterizes as Masnick’s “willingness to lie down in front of the corporate bulldozer” when Masnick implies everyone should accept the reality that people pirate en masse (and thus bulldoze the pro-copyright corporations, if I understand the belabored metaphor) instead of railing against it.

Still, you’re right, it’s just ad hominem and hyperbole. Yes, we’re “lying down in front of the piratical bulldozers” because we’re “like cows”. Yawn.

mikey4001 says:


I actually read that to mean sort of the opposite. It seemed to me that the author was trying to say that the “corporate bulldozer” was a megalithic structure made up of operations like Google, Apple, Verizon, Comcast, and MegaUpload that make billions of dollars by ignoring copyright and facilitating massive content theft (his ideas, not mine). I thought the implication was that Masnick was just a cow laying down helplessly to be overrun by the untamed forces of the Evil Copyleft. I don’t think the guy that wrote that has ever actually read Techdirt, or even tried to digest the last 20 years of technological possibilities in any meaningful way whatsoever.

Maria Bustillos (user link) says:


Hi, Maria Bustillos here (author of the piece in question; thanks for reading it.) Just for reference my first commercial website went live in 1998, so I am a dinosaur. Always happy to be schooled, also.

Whatever the public demands can be had. It will require some work to ensure that our cultural commons isn’t ruined by the circumstances in which we find ourselves. We need copyright reform, and we need better and fairer venues that will deny monopolies to Google and Amazon, and that will provide fair compensation to artists, musicians and authors.

I apologize to Mr. Masnick for the harsh characterization. It just steams me that someone in a position to advocate for fairness, as he is, should instead lend his support to the corpocrats who are getting rich off other peoples’ work and not sharing the proceeds with artists, just because (for the moment) they can get away with that. We don’t have to accept the status quo.

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