Play it again ...

Via the IPKat's friend Miri Frankel comes this feature on Wired regarding the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and its litigation against file sharers (so far more than 20,000 copyright infringement actions have apparently been launched). This story involves a New York family accused of copyright infringement.

The RIAA initially identified the mother, Joan Cassin, as being the operative copyright infringer, but later dropped its action at the point at which which the judge was pondering a motion to dismiss the case based on the "making available" theory (see here, here and here). Two weeks later, the RIAA re-filed more or less identical allegations in a fresh action that was sent to another judge because the RIAA did not "relate" the cases. Discovery was immediately sought in order to find out whose KazaA file share folder was being used -- a share folder on the same Verizon internet account as was used at the Cassin household. Curiously the second lawsuit was filed as a John Doe case, without naming a defendant.

Right: images such as these have done much to portray the battle between the RIAA and file sharers as a contest between bully-boy and defenceless victim. The reality is more complex, particularly since the "making available" theory is not universally subscribed to -- but the imbalance of resources in litigation of this kind remains a bone of contention.

Says the IKat, whatever the rights and wrongs of copyright infringement, and whether you believe that RIAA's decision to pursue individuals in this manner is (i) prudent protection policy or (ii) downright reprehensible harrassment, episodes like this are bound to make the objective bystander feel that there is an unacceptable risk that the system can be manipulated. Adds Merpel, it's strange how often John Doe ends up in court. With all his experience of litigation he ought to be quite good at manipulating the system himself ...

Below: this cartoon -- which accompanied the Wired article -- suggests that the RIAA would prefer it if the repertoire of its recording company members remained unheard. This misses the point. What the RIAA wants is to make sure that new songs are heard, but only on the condition that remuneration can be secured and that the means of dissemination remains under the control of rights owners. If new works are not put on general release, everyone loses. There has been much clamour for new business models to replace the old ones on which the RIAA's members prospered, but the range of real-world options seems alarmingly small.

Play it again ... Play it again ... Reviewed by Jeremy on Sunday, June 22, 2008 Rating: 5


  1. The cartoon is from Geek&Poke, which licenses them under a CC licence requiring attribution. A fact you could easily have established for yourself, as Wired honour the licence by including the required link..

    Amusing oversight on a piece about copyright infringement ;).

  2. Paul,
    Just what is your problem? The CC license simply requires that the creator be identified and that no changes are made. Both seem to have been satisfied by the IPKat so I am clueless as to where the "amusing oversight" is to be found other than in your post. Also, how is the link in your comment any different to the article?

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Back on the issue at hand, is the cartoon not meant to be getting at the point that the obsession big media has with controlling content and its distribution channels does often seem to come at the expense of getting it out there?

    The big example of this is usually the Betamax case, where Hollywood unsuccessfully tried to shut down the technology that went on to become one of its principle revenue streams. There's any number of anecdotal cases of people talking about building hype around a product by releasing it under a CC license or similar.

    You can believe those or not, but the argument that the music industry is cutting off its nose to spite its face is hardly outright spurious.

  5. Anon,

    Perhaps you're seeing a different web page to me, but in the one I'm seeing, my comment is the first mention of Geek&Poke, and the first link to their site. (I should have made my comment more light-hearted by finishing it with a "there, fixed it for you").

  6. BTW, in case anyone thinks my comments are annoying pedanticism irrelevant to reality (I'm a programmer, so that's normal for me), imagine if copyright-maximilists get their way and make even personal/non-commercial infringement a criminal matter. The annoying pedant might then be more troublesome..

    That's not a world I particularly want to see. Yet we have already made moved significantly towards it in the last decade.


    (Oh: The cartoon was in no way needed to discuss either the RIAA or the Wired piece, nor was the cartoon itself critiqued).

    (And I'm aware some members of the IPKat have written about IP and society, though those pieces aren't easily available via the internet ;). Course the IPKat isn't much given to opinion here.)

  7. Paul

    I think "annoying pedanticism" is perfectly acceptable on a legal blog. Many of the readers could come hopelessly unstuck simply by ignoring seemingly unimportant details in their work.


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