RIAA, the US recording industry interest group, is once again flexing its muscles (RIAA press release here). Yesterday it filed papers bringing actions against 261 individuals accused of downloading on average more than 1,000 songs each and said that it would bring further actions against thousands more. This is a new development. Previously RIAA has only gone after the networks that facilitate peer-to-peer file sharing such as Napster and, more recently, Grokster. RIAA president Cary Sherman showed he was all heart, saying "We expect people to say 'It isn't me, it was my kid,' but someone has to take responsibility.” True to his word, among those names in the actions is Texas grandfather Durwood Pickle, who claims his grandchildren performed the downloads when they visited him.

Meanwhile, RIAA has also offered an amnesty (known as the “Clean Slate Program”) to anyone willing to sign an affidavit promising to stop using P2P networks for illegal downloading, not to allow others to use their computers for that purpose and to delete all illegally downloaded files from their machines. Those against whom court actions have already been brought will not be able to rely on the amnesty, nor will those for whom RIAA has requested details from their internet service providers. It seems this is a slightly devious way of getting downloaders to come forward voluntarily – something downloaders may seriously consider in the light of the recent actions. The affidavits would also allow RIAA to argue that any subsequent downloads by people who have signed them constitutes wilful copyright infringement, which carries criminal penalties in the US.

RIAA could still be stopped in its tracks though. A woman known only by her online nickname of nycfashiongirl has challenged the constitutionality of a subpoena ordering her internet service provider to disclose her details, arguing that RIAA is not entitled to take that step because it is not affiliated with any government organisation.

While the IPKat does not condone copyright infringement, he is disturbed by the climate of fear that RIAA seems to be creating by its two-pronged approach. The implication is, you too could be on the receiving end of a court summons unless you voluntarily expose yourself as a P2P user. While it is now fairly clear that firm action will be taken against P2P users, this was not always the case. The IPKat notes that many people who started using them are not hardened criminals and thought that there was a degree of acquiescence for the millions of people using them. To bring actions against such users who arguably did not have fair notice of the consequences of their action would be callous and would achieve nothing. He also notes that the “Clean Slate” affidavit has a space allowing for the signature of those who are under 18 and their parents – does this mean that RIAA plans to bring court actions against those of that age group?

UPDATE: The "Clean Slate Programme" has been challenged in a California court by Eric Parke.

Have you been a naughty boy or girl? Then take this affidavit to your local notary public immediately
View the latest peer-to-peer developments here
If you’re an NYC Fashion Girl click here

BRINGING UP THE RIAA BRINGING UP THE RIAA Reviewed by Unknown on Tuesday, September 09, 2003 Rating: 5

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