by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
copyright, riaa

Washington Post Flubs Story On RIAA -- RIAA Still Not Going After Personal Copies (Yet)

from the who-needs-to-read-the-details? dept

Back at the beginning of December, we helped debunk a story making the rounds claiming that the RIAA was going after a guy named Jeffrey Howell for ripping his own CDs to his computer. That story was misleading, at best. While we know that the RIAA is constantly pushing to extend both the meaning and scope of copyright law, in this case the details were pretty clear that they were not going after Howell for just ripping his CDs, but for putting those ripped files into a shared Kazaa folder. Now you can (and we do!) disagree that simply putting files into a shared folder are infringement, but that's different than just claiming that ripping the CDs is illegal or that he was being targeted just for ripping the CDs. Unfortunately (and for reasons unclear to me), the Washington Post has revived the story, again repeating that Howell is being targeted for ripping his own CDs. That's simply not true, and it's nice to see a true copyright expert like William Patry question the Washington Post on this as well. It looks as though the Post's source for the story is the same as the earlier story: lawyer Ray Beckerman. Beckerman has done (and continues to do) a fantastic job fighting the RIAA against its bogus lawsuits. However, he still has failed to explain how the RIAA's filing actually says what he claims it says. While he suggested I don't understand because I am not familiar enough with the minutia of copyright law, I don't see how he can say the same for Patry, who literally wrote a nearly 6,000 page book on copyright. Of course, now that the Washington Post has republished this already debunked story, many other publications are spreading it. I emailed the Washington Post writer asking for clarification on Monday, but have not yet heard back.

Furthermore, there is one other point that is worth highlighting. It was noted in the comments to our original post. The filing points out that when Howell ripped his CDs and put them into a shared folder, those files were no longer "authorized." It's important to note that there's a difference between unauthorized and illegal. Beckerman seems to be saying that by saying "unauthorized" the RIAA means illegal -- but that need not be the case. It's perfectly legal to rip your CDs, even if it's not authorized. It's well established that ripping a CD for personal backup purposes is perfectly legal, even if it's not authorized. What the RIAA appears to be saying is that by putting those backup files into a shared folder, the rips no longer were made for personal use, thus pushing them over the line to illegal. Yes, the RIAA is still pushing its luck in its description, but as was clearly established back at the beginning of December, it is not (yet) claiming that Howell broke the law simply by ripping his CDs -- and it's too bad that the Washington Post has repeated it in a way that caused a bunch of other sites to suddenly claim that it was true.

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  1. identicon
    DG, 8 Jan 2008 @ 2:35pm

    Hang on a second

    Everyone is jumping up and down about Fisher's comments re: the Howell case, but they shouldn't lose sight of Pariser's comments on the stand in the Thomas case, and that's what Sherman is upset about.

    Here's what Fisher wrote: The Howell case was not the first time the industry has argued that making a personal copy from a legally purchased CD is illegal. At the Thomas trial in Minnesota, Sony BMG's chief of litigation, Jennifer Pariser, testified that "when an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." Copying a song you bought is "a nice way of saying 'steals just one copy,' " she said.

    Sherman was all over this one in the NPR interview. THOSE comments are the things we should focus on, and the things we should keep in the light. Sherman wants very badly for us to forget she said that ON THE RECORD. We weren't supposed to be paying attention to her remarks.

    Don't for a minute believe that the RIAA wouldn't sue each and every one of us for ripping our legally owned CDs to our MP3 players if they thought they could get away with it.

    Pariser's testimony is greasing the skids. You all better pay close attention to what the RIAA says next on the subject. It ain't going away.

    FOCUS, people.

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