Lawsuits as an anti-DCI measure entail the suing of pirate distributors as well as consumers who engage in DCI. In most cases, groups such as recording associations would be the organizations suing.Back to top
Examples of Lawsuits
The Motion Picture Association of America seems to be pre-empting copyright? infringement of movies before it goes mainstream. Suing an unspecified number of people suspected to trade movies online, MPAA takes advantage of lawsuits to try to reduce the prevalence of copyright infringement? of movies.
One would expect lawsuits to be filed against distributors of pirated goods, and the role of lawsuits to be the recouping of as much losses as possible. However, when we consider lawsuits to be an anti-DCI measure, a case study is of note: RIAA’s 16 000 lawsuits against consumers who download? music.
The first wave of 261 lawsuits against individuals in the US was filed on 8 September 2003, after attempts to sue owners of peer-to-peer? technologies for bringing about copyright infringement of music. RIAA insists that the people sued are individuals who have downloaded a “substantial amount” of music from peer-to-peer networks. As of January 2006, RIAA is said to have served 16 000 lawsuits against individuals, with 700 more lawsuits each month.Back to top
Selection of Defendants
RIAA monitors and tracks consumers who download copyrighted songs over peer-to-peer networks using monitoring programs, obtaining the user’s IP address, which is unique to a computer connected to the Internet at any one time. RIAA then demands the user’s Internet ISP to provide the user’s contact information based on the IP address and the time the IP address was captured, and proceeds with the lawsuit.
Some of RIAA’s efforts, however, have been misdirected. Sarah Seabury Ward, 66, was among the first batch of people sued in 2003. Her lawyer, however, complained that she was a “computer neophyte” who did not download any peer-to-peer file-sharing programs. RIAA subsequently dropped the lawsuit.Back to top
The apparently arbitrary style in which the lawsuits are filed, coupled with records of some lawsuits against children and the innocent, and the apparent failure of the lawsuits make this anti-DCI approach of RIAA’s come under fire.
Critics often cite the seemingly arbitrary fashion by which people are randomly selected for lawsuits filed against them. There are nine million users of peer-to-peer technology, and a majority exchanging copyrighted content without authorization. Yet, only 16 000 of them were sued. Among them, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation pointed out in 2005, “were children, grandparents, single mothers, college professors—a random assortment of the tens of millions of American music fans using P2P networks.”
Photograph of a crowd, Only 16 000 of Americans were sued, among them… a random assortment of the tens of millions of American music fans using P2P networks.
Critics also point out that the lawsuits filed against peer-to-peer network users who exchange copyrighted files are not working. Big Champagne Online Media Measurement reported that traffic on peer-to-peer networks doubled between September 2003 and June 2005. The rest of the world sees a continual increase in the scale of peer-to-peer network.
Lastly, critics feel that some of the defendants should not have been sued. For instance, the then-twelve-year-old Brianna Lahara was sued for distributing music on peer-to-peer networks. There are also cases of the disabled and the underprivileged. People who downloaded music they already have to save time copying the tracks onto their drives were also sued. RIAA came under fire for its harshness in dealing with music downloaders. In addition, these cases were reported throughout the Internet, including reputable news sites like BBC, blogs and organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, dealing a blow to the reputation of the music industry.