Don't Believe the Hype - RIAA amnesty for music downloaders!

Question

The RIAA announced an amnesty program for those that have been using file sharing programs to download music. Is this something that I should do?

- Carol

Answer

This question was answered on September 12, 2003. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has long been attempting to curtail the illegal downloading of music through various tactics and education campaigns

Until recently, their main targets were companies that operated P2P (peer-to-peer) networks, such as Grokster and Kazaa They have always been concerned about going after the general public, since they are ultimately the consumers of their products.

But now the gloves have come off with the recent filing of 261 lawsuits against individuals that the RIAA claims are engaging in illegal file sharing of copyrighted music.

The primary targets were those that were sharing large libraries of files from their computers Among the defendants is a 12-year old honor student that lives in subsidized housing in New York

Brianna Lahara has become the poster child for the critics of the RIAA’s tactics that want to “call attention to a system that permits multinational corporations with phenomenal financial and political resources to strong-arm 12-year-olds and their families in public housing”.

The RIAA announced for the rest of the country, an amnesty program for users that are willing to “sign a declaration promising to destroy all the music files they may have illegally copied in the past and not to make any more such copies in the future”.

The amnesty program details are posted at www.musicunited.org.

Critics of the amnesty program including the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) are calling it a ‘sham’ “While the RIAA would like you to believe otherwise, their offer of protection is largely illusory In reality, the RIAA cannot actually protect anyone from all civil suits, and individuals who sign these affidavits may open themselves up to criminal prosecution” according to the EFF web site (www.eff.org).

They go on to say “The RIAA's offer only protects you against RIAA lawsuits It doesn't own any copyrights, and its member labels aren't bound by this arrangement This means that you could still be sued by the major record labels that fund the RIAA, songwriters or any other copyright holders Plus, the RIAA would almost certainly turn over this information in response to any valid subpoena.”

In fact, a day after the RIAA filed the lawsuits against the 261 individuals, it became the target of legal action over its "amnesty" program.

The suit filed by California resident Eric Parke, charges that “the RIAA's program is a deceptive and fraudulent business practice It’s designed to induce members of the general public...to incriminate themselves and provide the RIAA and others with actionable admissions of wrongdoing under penalty of perjury while (receiving)...no legally binding release of claims...in return," according to the law suit.

Under the current parameters used by the RIAA for bringing charges, if you are sharing large amounts of copyrighted files with others you could get subpoenaed.

If you are at all concerned, the EFF has posted several suggestion on how to avoid becoming a target of the RIAA hunt for file sharers on their web site, (www.eff.org).

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Author

Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on September 12, 2003