Lawsuits as an anti-copyright infringement measure would involve suing consumers engaging in DCI and pirate distributors. Groups such as recording associations would often act as the plaintiff in the lawsuit.
The Motion Picture Association of America is one of the organisations taking advantage of civil lawsuits to attempt to curb the copyright infringement of movies. It filed lawsuits against an unstated number of people whom it suspects to be trading movies online, and in so doing, appears to be pre-empting the copyright infringement of movies before it becomes prevalent.Back to top
20 000, and counting, sued for downloading music
One would expect corporations to sue distributors of pirated goods to take back as much of what the industry perceives as ‘losses to piracy’ as possible. In considering lawsuits as an anti-DCI measure, however, it is pertinent to note the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)’s lawsuits against 20 000 people whom it claims to be consumers of downloaded music.
After the industry’s endeavours in suing operators of peer-to-peer technologies for making copyright infringement of music possible, RIAA filed the first batch of 261 lawsuits against individuals in the US on 8 September 2003. RIAA claims that the defendants are those who have downloaded a “substantial amount” of music from peer-to-peer networks. The Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that, as of July 2006, the RIAA has already sued 20 000 consumers for file-sharing of music.Back to top
How defendants are chosen—or sometimes, wrongly chosen
In selecting the defendants for its lawsuits, the RIAA first uses monitoring programs to track file-sharing users who download copyrighted songs over peer-to-peer networks. They obtain the user’s Internet Protocol address, a special address allocated to a computer that is connected to the Internet that, at any one time, is unique to that computer. RIAA then provides the user’s IP address and the time of capture of the address to the relevant ISP and demands the user’s contact information from the ISP to proceed with the lawsuit.
There have been some misdirected efforts on RIAA’s part when it conducted its series of lawsuits. Sarah Seabury Ward, 66, was one of those in the first batch of defendants back in 2003. However, her lawyer pointed out that she was a “computer neophyte” who did not even download any peer-to-peer file-sharing programs. RIAA eventually dropped the lawsuit.Back to top
However, critics have had their say
Photograph of a crowd, Only 20 000 of Americans were sued, among them… a random assortment of the tens of millions of American music fans using P2P networks.
[Picture credit: ubiquity_zh from flickr. Licensed under CC by-nc 2.0]
RIAA has invited flak from various quarters for the lawsuits it files against individuals who download copyrighted music.
First, RIAA’s way of choosing music consumers to sue appears rather arbitrary, and this is one thing that critics are unhappy about. A majority of the nine million users of peer-to-peer technology exchange copyrighted content without the copyright holders’ permission. However, charges were pressed only against 20 000 of them were sued (as of July 2006). 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.”
Some also contend the way in which some defendants for the lawsuits ended up to be selected. There have been some who were sued because they downloaded music so that they could save time copying the music tracks from original CDs to their hard drives, for example. In another incident, Brianna Lahara was twelve when the RIAA served a lawsuit on her. RIAA has also filed lawsuits against the underprivileged and the disabled. In short, RIAA was criticised for being heavy-handed when it comes to dealing with consumers who download music. Reputable news sites like BBC and websites of organisations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation carried reports of such lawsuits, and this adversely affected the music industry’s reputation.
Lastly, RIAA’s efforts in reducing peer-to-peer transfer of copyrighted music has also seemed to prove largely ineffective. As Big Champagne Online Media Management reported, traffic on peer-to-peer networks doubled between September 2003 and June 2005; the peer-to-peer network has only been getting larger and larger as time goes by.