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Making Files Available Breaking the Law? 538

Posted by samzenpus
from the learn-not-to-share dept.
lordhathor2001 writes "The RIAA has argued in one of their cases that simply "making files available for distribution" violates copyright laws. This means that regardless of the legality of a file somebody has on their computer, just putting it in a shared files folder that can be accessed by other people is illegal. Although it's asinine, it really shouldn't come as any surprise given the RIAA's legal campaign that's more about what it believes than what the law actually says."
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Making Files Available Breaking the Law?

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  • Lying assholes (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Travelsonic (870859) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @09:32PM (#14563935) Journal
    Well, if the file is not vilating copyright law, then it is not illegal. The RIAA should take its ill informed post and shove it...
  • Thoughtcrime? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The evil non-flying (947059) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @09:35PM (#14563966)
    Somedays I get the sinking feeling Orwell was an optimist.
  • by killdozer3k (779295) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @09:35PM (#14563969)
    Simply author a file that you are the copy holder and then sue them for restraint of trade or insterstate commerce problems. Who are they to restrain trade?
  • by camzmac (889291) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @09:39PM (#14563998) Homepage
    ...after all, your /var/httpd/docs directory is technically a "shared folder".
  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @10:06PM (#14564193) Journal
    You don't need 10 million dollars to sue someone in small claims court. You don't even need ten. If you're that poor, the judge will waive court filings fees etc.

    And every knows that you don't strangle a litter of adorable puppies. You put them in a sack and drown them.
  • by CyricZ (887944) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @10:07PM (#14564203)
    One little-heard story in the West is concerned with how many Polish workers fought back against communism during the last 1970s and early 1980s. I think it may hold relevent in America these days, since the oppressor is quite the same (even if it's called called an "industry association", rather than a "government").

    Since many Polish workers were limited in what they could write, they couldn't necessarily make signs or posters. So what they did was launch mass verbal assaults. Not a protest, per se, since they were still working or going about their everyday lives. As they were building ships, or working in a factory, or while heading to work, they would sing chants.

    The songs/chants were quite varied. One particular song basically translated to: "We are the people. United we stand." Over and over they would repeat those verses. Other times they were just overtly obscene. Chants which translate to "Penis, anus, defecation!" were commonplace.

    Would such protests work in American record stores, for instance?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @10:17PM (#14564262)
    They are saying that putting *copyrighted* materials in a shared folder is illegal. Not just sharing any files. I'm no defender of RIAA, but let's try to get a fact straight.

    In opposition papers served yesterday in Elektra v. Barker in Manhattan federal court, the RIAA has argued that merely making files "available for distribution" is in and of itself a copyright violation.

    All materials are copyrighted, automatically. Sometimes the owners don't bother with the copyright (implicitly giving everyone permission to use it) or sometimes it gets licensed (such as with the GPL). Sharing the files only becomes copyright infringement if they don't have permission from the copyright owner to share it. So the sharing of copyrighted files is not automatically copyright infringement. If it was every website would be illegal, all music shops would be unable to sell CDs etc etc.

    Sharing copyrighted files without permission from their owner is probably what they meant, but it doesn't sound like it's what they said.
  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @10:17PM (#14564264)
    Here's another one for you. One of the reasons for fair use is making backup copies of purchased works. If the originals of such works are stolen from the owner, did the backup copies just become illegal? Can I back up my backups in order to maintain the same level of loss protection? Can any lawyers answer that one? Capt. Kangarooski ... you out there?
  • Re:Thoughtcrime? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Storm (2856) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @10:18PM (#14564271) Homepage
    If the MPAA and RIAA had their way, every time you thought about a scene in a movie or every time you got a song stuck in your head, they would be able to charge and eventually sue (because just charging you won't make their bottom line look as good as getting random individuals to settle for thousands...

    --Storm
  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @11:24PM (#14564687)
    One of the main problems with the RIAA and their tactics so far, is that they're suing people who had files "available".

    Whatever anyone here may think of them, the RIAA do have a legal right to protect their copyright. So, in our perfectly rational legal world, how should they go about this?

    The last Slashdot discussion I saw on this subject was full of people ranting about how unfair it was for the RIAA to seek the identity of someone, in court, when that person's system was known to be actively advertising that it was sharing copyright material that would be illegal to download.

    Moreover, even if RIAA staff download such a file themselves, many here will pop up and tell us that since they own the copyright, that's not illegal and doesn't prove anything.

    However, we all know (and let's face it, I'm not just saying that and we really do all know) that copyright infringement via P2P is widespread. If the offer to download, including an advertisement that the material really is the copyright material that can't legally be downloaded, deliberately being made available on a file-sharing system, and demonstrated by the RIAA to be downloadable because they made a copy, isn't sufficient to bring a case before a judge and expect some legal recourse, then what is?

    Congratulations: you just made a pretty solid case that in order to preserve the clear legal rights of the RIAA, it's necessary for law enforcement agencies to monitor and log all Internet traffic routinely, for governments to ban any anonymous access to the Internet and require ISPs to make a serious effort to confirm the identity of anyone they allow to use their systems, and for draconian penalties to be available when someone is successfully prosecuted for making an illegal copy via the Internet.

    Personally, I'd rather the RIAA could sue the pants of someone who is blatantly breaking the law, and that person couldn't weasel their way out of their deserved punishment using legal chicanery, and the rest of us didn't have to put up with the sort of crap I mentioned above.

  • But understandable (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @11:34PM (#14564742) Journal
    This has never been about theft of music. This is about stopping the independants. More and more of the new music is showing up on the net and labels are not needed. If RIAA can not control all the downloads, then it is only a matter of time before they are out of business.
  • by laughingcoyote (762272) * <{moc.eticxe} {ta} {lwohtsehgrab}> on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @11:40PM (#14564781) Journal

    Or, of course, we could always reform copyright, limiting its term to 5 or 10 years, and making it a regulation on industrial, for-profit use of the material, rather than private, not-for-profit sharing. I think that'd solve it pretty nicely-anyone -selling- the stuff is going to leave an easily followed trail (the money's got to go to someone!), and we'd have -no- more reason to worry about what private individuals are doing with their stuff.

  • Re:Distinction (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dgatwood (11270) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:33AM (#14565292) Journal
    As a musician, I've very seriously considered doing that, not to get sued (though getting to counter-sue the bajeezus out of them certainly wouldn't make me cry), but to provide a way of promoting music in a similar genre that most people would otherwise never have heard of.... I know people do that... probably more often than you think.

    The funny part is this: if the RIAA isn't downloading the files to verify their contents, they are opening themselves up to counter-suit from the file sharer, but if the RIAA is downloading the files to verify their contents, they are committing a copyright violation and are opening themselves up to lawsuits from their members (not to mention that by doing so, they are providing a prima facie airtight defense for anyone downloading shared files, allowing them to simply claim that they were checking them for a copyright violation, since as representatives of the copyright holders, they are declaring that the copyright holder feels that it is okay to download files for that purpose...).

  • Re:Oh bloody hell (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Fizzl (209397) <fizzl@fizzl.nMOSCOWet minus city> on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:59AM (#14565356) Homepage Journal
    Well, uh. Actually. There's an interesting quirk in Finnish music distribution system.
    I'm a member of Teosto and Gramex. (First one is like RIAA, the second one is kinda like national evil publisher or something. You become a member of both when you register a recording.)
    I have one registered demo tape from 1994 or something. I couldn't publish those songs from my server for free even if I wanted to. Gramex collects the radio and other presentation fees of music, and thus I'd have to pay them 20c or something per download so they could take ther share of the money and then distribute those cents back to me and others involved with making the demo. This still holds even if I would could get signed contracts from other copyright holders on that tape and they would aggree to a free distribution.
  • by Martix (722774) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @02:19AM (#14565422)
    Think what your saying is right.
    since i got a quote for 1000 CDs pressed for a buck 25. after the recording ect.
    and i could and will use p2p to advertize there scared very scared

    my 2 watts
  • Re:Look... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mallardtheduck (760315) <stuartbrockmanNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:42AM (#14565642)
    Copyright infringement is not stealing.
    I'm going to use UK law examples here as I live in the UK, however US and other laws are sufficiently similar for the same point to apply.

    Theft: Dishonestly appropriating property belonging to another with intent to permanently deprive.

    If you make a copy of something, then you are not depriving anybody of the original.

    There is in fact a case, R v Lloyd, where a cinema projectionist took films to make pirate copies, then returned them. As the cinema had only been deprived of the films for a few hours and they had not been damaged in any way then no crime had been comitted.

    The civil offence of Copyright Infringement deals with making copies without permission. It is not theft.
  • by mankey wanker (673345) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @05:22AM (#14565844)
    >Essentially, what the RIAA is trying to do is eliminate the line between making something available for distribution, and actually distributing it. That is, right now there's a distinction between offering something that's not yours, and actually going through with it and transferring the property-that's-not-yours to somebody else. At least as I understand it, currently no crime is committed until the transfer actually occurs. I could have ten million MP3s on an FTP site, and as long as all anyone does is browse the directories, no harm done. When somebody downloads one, I'm in trouble.

    You were thinking pretty clearly right up until the last line there...

    I still can't see how you are guilty of anything. Here is my thought experiment: I leave my front door open, someone walks in and steals my MP3 music server - so thousands of copies of songs just went out my door. Am I guilty of any wrong doing? Of course not, the thief is. If there is any positive act that the RIAA should be targeting it would be the specific act of downloading a song. And yes, they would have to prove it was you doing it, at a specific time and place, using certain tools, they would further have to be able to prove the file was genuine (in other words, they couldn't allege what the file was - they'd have to prove precisely what the file was), that they represent the specific copyright holders of that material, etc.

    The act of putting something in a shared folder is sort of like putting a pie on a window sill to cool down - there is a potential for theft, but the positive act of theft is committed by the thief and not the victim. Let's just for a moment assume that millions of non-geeks are actually putting files in the default MS Windows "Shared Documents" directory - that's now a positive act of copyright infringement? I think not...

    Let's look at it from the other direction: if the supposition were true that the mere act of allowing something to be available in a shared directory were the positive act of copyright infringement itself then by extension everyone would become responsible for the content over which they exert guardianship. Wouldn't you then be burdened with having to make sure that any possibly copyright infringing files were adequately secured against duplication? If not, the RIAA could then sue you for not practicing Due Diligence over the copyrighted materials in your possession. That's basically what they are trying to argue now: that ownership of certain kinds of files is now the equivalent of being some kind of security expert - so if you aren't familiar with the practices of securing your system against intrusions and the routine protocols of P2P software that someone might install on your systems, you are infringing upon their copyrights.

    The burden really does have to be that the RIAA must prove upon the preponderance of evidence that you were actually distributing their materials by some kind of positive act.

    What they are getting away with is suing people for making copyrighted materials potentially available to others - which is not the same thing at all. By such loose logic the advent of having your computer hacked would become a potential copyright violation - doesn't having your system hacked making all of the files on it potentially vulnerable?

    Am I my brother's keeper? No, I am not. If the RIAA is worried about file distribution that's their lookout and not mine. I am not their agent working on their behalf to secure files from possible duplication - I just don't care.
  • Re:Oh bloody hell (Score:2, Interesting)

    by newend (796893) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @05:40AM (#14565878)
    Does this include people who have a shared folder within a local network? Can I not listen to music I've purchased and legally ripped on a different computer from the one that I ripped it on?
  • by xeno-cat (147219) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @08:29AM (#14566213) Homepage
    I think the main point is that this interpritation of the law goes to far. The RIAA wants to make everyone a criminal so that it can more easily pick and choose who to sue and otherwise make it's job easier. But a law that makes a criminal out of someone based on where they put files on _their_ computer is extreme. There are already plenty of laws that protect copyright holders and the RIAA is having no trouble using them. The trouble they are having is mostly in identifying who to sue. But the laws making identification difficult are also the laws that are protecting peoples privacy and should not be mutable.

    I think the previous poster understands your point, as do I. It just so happens that in this case it would be very bad for the RIAA to get it's way.

          There are criminal and civil laws and then there are more natural laws, like those of economics. The RIAA created the black market for music by price fixing. Back in the day it was difficult to copy and share black market music on a mass scale so the economic pressures were in the RIAA's favor. What happened almost overnight was that those counter pressures vanished and the black market, that the RIAA created through *admittedly* illiegal price fixing, exploded onto the seen. Big oops. This is like a slaves revolt except this time it is for the emancipation of our culture. And with the spectre of DRM looming in the future I don't think that that is to dramatic a way to put it. With regards to laws, whenever you have so many people breaking the law on such a massive scale, society will always need to take another look at the law and likely modify it as to reduce the criminality of the behavour. We are the people, after all. This is our country.

    Kind Regards
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @09:35AM (#14566532) Homepage
    Actually you are wrong. many works have been released without copyright and in the public domain as well as copyrighted but CREATIVE COMMONS licensing or free to use and share licensing attached.

    CC is scaring the bejezus out of the movie,record,and writer industries. It empowers the creator to sidestep their largest source of expenses (The distributor/studio/publisher/record company) and coupled with the internet it makes them all useless.

    The last 10 CD's I have purchased came from CDBaby, 2 have a Creative commons license that allows me to share the tracks on the CD.

    And yes, The music from these indie artists is much better than the crap that BMG/ASCAP has been shoveling out lately.

    Even my 14 year old daughter that is heavy into metal/punk preferrs the indie stuff or classic stuff.
  • by packeteer (566398) <[packeteer] [at] [subdimension.com]> on Thursday January 26, 2006 @10:00AM (#14566703)
    If this bullshit is "safety" from "the terrorists" I don't want to be safe anymore.

    I think that this was the same idea that the founding father's had. They believed that only god could decide how long they lived, they could however decide how free they lived. If living in freedom means you are more likely to be killed then bring it on, im ready to die free. America is great not becuase we are an economic powerhouse although thats what most people associate with the "American way of life". Giving up your freedom will never make you safer, thats a debated fact and even if it was not true, i would choose liberty over safety.

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