RIAA Wins, Usenet.com Loses in MP3 Copyright Suit

Usenet.com has lost its copyright lawsuit vs. the RIAA over MP3 filesharing. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers debate the latest battle in the copyright war and the legal nicities of the Betamax Defense.

By Richi Jennings: your humble blogwatcher, who selected these bloggy morsels for your enjoyment. Not to mention how we used to play games on phones...

David Stellmack has all the deets:

The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) on Tuesday won its legal case against Usenet.com for copyright infringement when the judge hearing the case ruled that [Usenet.com] was not entitled to use the 1984 Betamax defense. The parties are next headed to federal court for the damages assessment and award, which could amount to many, many millions.
Usenet.com enables users to access the Usenet network, which was in its beginning a way that users could share binary files, as well as participate in electronic discussion forums. The RIAA claimed that Usenet.com was permitting unauthorized copyright infringement by charging users $19.00 to access "millions of MP3 files and also enables you to post your own files the same way and share them with the whole world." Unfortunately, this was Usenet's own advertising pitch, which did not help its legal defense.      MORE

Kelly Fiveash adds a bit of local color:

In October 2007 RIAA lawyers chucked a federal lawsuit at Usenet.com, in which it claimed that the Fargo, North Dakota newsgroup service "enables and encourages" people to swap copyrighted music.

At the time the RIAA, which represents big name players in the recording industry, accused Usenet.com of infringing copyright far beyond the scope of what peer-to-peer file sharing services offered. Judge Harold Baer of the Southern District of New York court dished out the ruling. He found Usenet.com guilty of "direct, contributory, and vicarious infringement".     MORE

Gareth Halfacree 'splains the Betamax Defense:

As its defence, Usenet.com used the famous Betamax case ruling. That case, which was brought against Sony by Universal Studios, accused the defendant of facilitating copyright infringement by selling Betamax video recorders. The case was rejected on two counts: one, that Sony's influence over the use of the device ended once the product had been purchased; and second, that there were significant non-infringing uses for a Betamax recorder - proving that it was not developed solely as a means to infringe copyright.
The win is important for the RIAA on two counts: not only does it open the door for the group to target other providers of high-bandwidth Usenet access, but it also makes it far more difficult for providers of P2P or file hosting services to use the Betamax case as a defence in future.

The RIAA's Jenny Parise paraises the ruling: [You're fired -Ed.]

Usenet.com ... has premised its business model on theft. ... Our expert conducted a statistical analysis and determined that more than 94 percent of all content files in certain music-related newsgroups were infringing (ILLEGAL) or highly likely to be infringing. The defendants took advantage of this fact by marketing the service as an alternative to peer-to-peer file sharing programs that were "getting shut down" due to copyright infringement.
This decision will substantially limit the ability of services who attempt to shield themselves under the guise of being a "passive conduit" to profit from the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted content. ... Usenet.com could not make use of the safe harbor afforded by the DMCA because it had willfully destroyed relevant evidence ... [which] courts do not take kindly to.     MORE

But Jason Locklin is depressed:

If you say you have never infringed copyright (at least how the RIAA sees copyright), you are either a liar or a fool. Ever sang happy birthday in a "public venue?" Ever emailed a colleague a recent news clip, journal article or comic? For that matter, are any of those comic posted up in your office? Do you loan or give away books to friends? do you want to do that with e-books when they become ubiquitous? are you an artist that learned your trade by emulating others? perhaps in public venues?

Like it or not, these people want to make the world a less free place, where only money guarantees freedom and permission is king. File sharing just happens to be the current edge case where the battle is being fought. If they haven't made your life more difficult yet, they will once they have locked up the file sharers and can concentrate more energy on your pet infringement.     MORE

And JaredOfEuropa makes this insightful point:

Up until recently, the RIAA and its member corporations had much to fear from pirates. They did not only compete on price, but also on quality of the product itself: in many cases pirate sites offer a superior product that has not been encumbered with DRM. And the industry has taken note and is responding, with legal download sites for music, soon perhaps even movies, and by removing DRM in some cases.
Now imagine that the RIAA and MPAA actually win against pirates, in a way that makes it almost impossible for John Q Public to find and download pirated works. They would no longer have an incentive to offer a competitive product at a competitive price. DRM would return in a big way, I expect. ... I am all for paying for whatever I get. But when I pay for it, I want to own it in perpetuity.    

This story, "RIAA Wins, Usenet.com Loses in MP3 Copyright Suit" was originally published by Computerworld.

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