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Making Files Available Breaking the Law? 538

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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  • Distinction (Score:4, Insightful)

    by winkydink ( 650484 ) * <> on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @09:33PM (#14563945) Homepage Journal
    Putting files in a shared folder may be found to be illegal in a court of law. The mere act does not a crime make.
  • Oh bloody hell (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PunkOfLinux ( 870955 ) <> on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @09:33PM (#14563946) Homepage
    oh, guess i better take the music I'VE made (which is free and legally distributable) out of there too, because i guess I (the owner of said music) have broken the law, too.
  • First Amendment (Score:4, Insightful)

    by auspiv ( 769470 ) <> on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @09:35PM (#14563972)
    Doesn't the first amendment give us the right to free speech? Couldn't that be applied here to give us the right to put files up for sharing on our computers if the material isn't copyrighted? It might just be me... but I think this is breaching our rights.
  • by aardvarkjoe ( 156801 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @09:37PM (#14563983)
    The article links to a blog (Techdirt) that says exactly the same thing as the Slashdot post. The Techdirt post links to another blog (Digital Music News) which says about the same thing, though at least apparently the Techdirt poster had the decency to reword the summary. There are no links to any even semi-credible source (like, say, the documents where they supposedly said this.)

    Could Slashdot at least wait until there's actually some proof before posting this crap?

  • Slippery Slope (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ClamIAm ( 926466 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @09:39PM (#14564000)
    I see where this is going. If there is a file sitting on my hard drive with no DRM, it can be "distributed" by being used by two different operating systems (dual-booting). Or you can set up a share to stream music over your LAN. Or if you connect an external drive to another computer (and not copying it to the other one), does that count as "distribution"?

    You can probably guess what the answer is.

  • Re:Thoughtcrime? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) <{akaimbatman} {at} {}> on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @09:40PM (#14564007) Homepage Journal
    Somedays I get the sinking feeling Orwell was an optimist.

    Agreed. I mean, just look at the instant SlashThink(TM) reaction around here. From the venhemence, you'd think the judge had actually accepted the argument.
  • by future assassin ( 639396 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @09:42PM (#14564019) Homepage
    as someone might see my cd collection and then steal it when I'm not home. Then I'd be guilty of piracy as I didn't do enough to protect the music I bought from being shared legally or illegaly.

    So now here's one for you. Say I beak into someones car/house and I get busted with their cd collection. Can the record companies now sue me for stealing music? I didnt pay for it.
  • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) <{akaimbatman} {at} {}> on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @09:43PM (#14564027) Homepage Journal
    And I care, because? It's a fraking court filing, not a finding! I can file a document that says, "It is illegal to drive on the right side of the road," and a judge would no more accept it than he'll accept this nonsense. If a judge does accept it, THEN make a news story out of it. In the meantime, this amounts to nothing more than, "RIAA is acting like the RIAA! News at 11!"
  • Re:Thoughtcrime? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrBigInThePants ( 624986 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @09:44PM (#14564039)
    Or perhaps that we are already living in his society and just fail to realise it...?

    His work was a metaphor or a possiblity. We could already be living it, it just looks different.

    Instead of the ominous TV screen, we have cable Sport, Xbox and DVDs.

    Instead of a "father figure" telling our kids how to behave we have Britney(TM) or, more correctly, RIAA & MPAA?

    Instead of factories where the poor go to work and large, souless offices for the rich we have....oh wait...
  • Re:Brilliant! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by loteck ( 533317 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @09:56PM (#14564126) Homepage
    and more importantly, the internet is illegal, by its very nature!
  • by DECS ( 891519 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @10:00PM (#14564152) Homepage Journal
    What's with the teenage responses?

    Yes, putting copyright or bootleg content in a shared directory is intent to break the law.

    - Would you argue that B&E isn't a crime until you pick something up and leave the property?
    - Is pointing a gun at somebody not a crime if you don't shoot them (or say you had no intention to)?
    - How about having kiddie porn on your PC, is that ok as long as you don't have any kids tied up in your basement being filmed? What about if you are a "journalist doing research on child abuse"?

    What's wrong with society when ANYONE who is caught doing anything is suddenly a victim?

    And what argument is there to support distributing content that is not yours to distribute? Is it hard to discern the difference between putting bootleg stuff in a shared folder, and having a shared folder? Or serving up stuff that is not bootleg? Jesus what idiocy!

    What we really need is clearly codified user 'bill of rights' that spell out (and defend) exactly what fair use rights are. Until then, childish arguments that suggest that illegal bootlegging and mass distribution of copyright material is somehow a "free speech" or "privacy" issue is just hurting the cause of people who want FAIR use, not piracy disguised under a layer of self righteous ignorance.
  • by Mistlefoot ( 636417 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @10:17PM (#14564263)
    Isn't a webpage essentially a set of files placed in a folder that are meant to be shared?

    By their logic wouldn't any website containing copyrighted material be breaking the law?

  • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @10:21PM (#14564287) Journal
    Yes, putting copyright or bootleg content in a shared directory is intent to break the law.
    No it isn't.
    And what argument is there to support distributing content that is not yours to distribute? Is it hard to discern the difference between putting bootleg stuff in a shared folder, and having a shared folder? Or serving up stuff that is not bootleg? Jesus what idiocy!
    Apparently, it is hard.

    1a. There are plenty of people who give away their own copyrighted material, free of charge. As a matter of fact, they would encourage you to do the same. The same thing goes for Bootlegs of Bands.

    2. Just because a directory is shared, does not mean the files are accessible. Even if they are accessible, there is no law against putting them somewhere 'shared'.

    What is against civil law is distributing material without the copyright owners permission. Your argument is wacked, because you compare a bunch of criminal matters, with a civil one.
  • Re:Distinction (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @10:30PM (#14564347) Journal
    One of the main problems with the RIAA and their tactics so far, is that they're suing people who had files "available".

    None of what I'm going to say applies to bittorrent, but from what I've gathered of their tactics, all they do is list the files your P2P prog has shared & that they claim copyright to.

    That should not and will not stand up in court. Even civil law has minimal standards of evidence and a list of files + your I.P. address doesn't prove anything.

    All the files you're 'sharing' could be fakes.

    The RIAA would have to prove otherwise and by the time legal arguments are being made, they won't be able to, since they don't have your computer and they didn't download anything when they had the chance.

    I'll say it again: An IP + list of files = nothing
  • by nick_davison ( 217681 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @10:53PM (#14564504)
    I think you are misreading the article. By "regardless of the legality of the file", what they mean is that you're not permitted to share a file you have a legal right to a personal copy of but no legal right to share.

    If you author a file and the content within it, you can do anything you like with it.

    If you make a fair use copy of a song, then put the song in a shared location, they are arguing it's the same as burning a whole stack of "fair use" copies of a CD to CD-R and then leaving them on your doorstep for anyone to take. Yes, you have a right to fair use copies - you don't have a right to "oops, how careless of me" allow others to take copies.
  • Re:Lying assholes (Score:2, Insightful)

    by c_fel ( 927677 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @11:16PM (#14564637) Homepage
    If it was the case, any web page would be illegal in US. Great !
  • Re:Oh bloody hell (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @11:35PM (#14564754)
    They're only saying you shouldn't configure your system to upload files that you can't legally upload.

    I realize the blog doesn't explicitly state that, but come on. You're just choosing the most outlandish interpretation of a vague statement so you can ridicule it. Or do you really think they're arguing copyright holders can't distribute their own files?

  • by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <slashdot.kadin@x[ ].net ['oxy' in gap]> on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @11:46PM (#14564819) Homepage Journal
    Yes. If the website with the copywritten material didn't have permission to post / republish it, it's obviously illegal. That's uncontroversial, and not what the issue here is about.

    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.

    What's new is that they want to make putting a copyrighted file into a shared folder (or FTP site, whatever) an act of distribution, in and of itself, regardless of whether anyone actually takes you up on the offer and downloads/transfers the copyrighted file.

    It makes a certain twisted kind of sense, since putting the file into the folder is the only action that the sharer actually takes -- therefore, it's demonstrative of their intent (to redistribute).

    I'm not sure that I agree with this, but I'm willing to play along for a moment, because I think this line of thinking could lead to strange places. I tend to wonder, if this actually became accepted, whether it wouldn't move the liability for copyright infringement from the downloader, to the sharer/provider. I.e., if you downloaded something from somebody else's shared folder, you'd begin to have a bit of a defense that you thought it was legal, because it would be illegal for them to put anything in the shared folder that wasn't authorized. It's basically a movement of responsibility.

    And this, I think, is why the RIAA is so interested. It's difficult to track down the myriad individuals that download content, but it's relatively easy to track down the people that are sharing or seeding content. By moving the legal burden onto them, rather than on the downloaders, it gives them a much stronger hand. It's no longer necessary for the RIAA to prove that somebody downloaded a particular file from your computer, just that you offered it up for that purpose.

    Like I said, it makes a twisted kind of sense.
  • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @12:16AM (#14564949) Journal
    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?
    Actually, I'm pretty sure that the RIAA is not making copies of shared files before they go to court.

    if you go dig around google for the "whitehead declaration", the guy describes what their investigative procedures are. They don't do anything that could result as evidence in a civil case, much less a criminal one.

    Having files available is not a crime. Serving up fake files with popular names is not a crime. They don't know if they have the copyright, because they haven't actually listened to any of the files the claim are theirs.

    As for the rest of your post, you took my words waaaaaaay off course.
  • Re:Look... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by shark72 ( 702619 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @12:26AM (#14564999)

    "Let me make this simple for you: I learned on Sesame Street that sharing is GOOD."

    Looks like that took precedent over the Golden Rule in your household. For the uninformed, that's "do unto others as you'd have them do unto you." It's in the Bible but it's a sentiment shared across lots of cultures and you don't need to be a Christian or even religious to understand its value.

    The golden rule applies to music sharing thusly: if you know that the artist is cool with you sharing their stuff, and they have the right to let you share it (ie. the artist owns the copyright on the recording as well as the words and music), then go ahead and do it. There are plenty of artists who independently produce their work and allow it to be freely distributed. More power to them, and we should support them.

    If you suspect that the artist would not want you distributing their stuff, or helping yourself to a copy without paying it, then DON'T. Why? The golden rule. You would not want the artist to ignore your wishes.

    This seems simple enough, but lots of people who don't quite get ths spirit of the golden rule still justify music piracy with a statement like "if I were a musician, I'd self-produce all my stuff and give it away for free" or "well, I write software that I give away, and I wouldn't mind the artist making a copy of my software for free. So, I'll copy their music for free, since I wouldn't mind them doing the same to me." The former is just a bit too hypothetical (what you think you would do if you were trying to make a living with your music, and what you would do if you were actually in that situation are worlds apart), and the latter simply indicates a lack of respect for other people's wishes.

  • Mod story as troll (Score:4, Insightful)

    by d_jedi ( 773213 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @12:26AM (#14565005)
    I think this story qualifies as a strawman..
    The story makes it sound like if you put *any* files into a shared folder, you're breaking the law. This is not the case.

    What the RIAA is really arguing is that if you place files into a shared folder that, if distributed, would constitute illegal distribution.. the act of making these files (which would be illegal if distributed) available for distribution by placing them in a shared folder is illegal.

    Now, I don't see how they'd be able to actually prove the files were, in fact, files that would be illegal for the person to distribute unless the RIAA downloaded them (meaning the files were distributed).

    Just remember kiddies,
    if you distort something to make it more absurd than it really is..
    OF COURSE it's going to sound absurd!
  • Re:First Amendment (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LegendLength ( 231553 ) <> on Thursday January 26, 2006 @12:39AM (#14565076)
    It seems like a huge stretch in interpretation of copyright law ...

    I wonder about that because, after all, copyright's purpose is to prevent unauthorized transfer from one person to another. It would seem that by exposing a work to a network that is built soley for transferring information, you are reasonably breaking copyright law.

    To put it another way, take away your dislike for copyright law itself, and imagine the work is something that you really would like to keep from being transferred without authorization (say, images of yourself that are private). Would you still agree that putting them on a file transfer network is reasonable, yet handing the same images to someone else is not ok (as normal copyright law goes)?
  • Re:First Amendment (Score:3, Insightful)

    by westlake ( 615356 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @12:40AM (#14565079)
    Doesn't the first amendment give us the right to free speech?

    Norman Rockwell in illustrating FDR's Four Freedoms [] chose a New England town meeting to symbolize "Freedom of Speech."

    The primary meaning of free speech in the American mind has always been defined as open political debate without fear of governmental interference or retaliation.

    You are responsible for the files you share. That goes beyond the law of copyright. Libel is not protected speech. Obscenity is not protected speech. The whole of the law of torts, of contracts, of criminal law does not magically fade away when you invoke the words "free speech."

  • The public library is allowed to do what it does because of First Sale doctrine, and because they're LENDING the books and not COPYING them. If you went into a library and instead of checking out a book, they just ran off a photocopy for you of the whole thing and let you keep it, they'd be in trouble.

    There's no parallel to the digital world, because (that I know of) there's no protocol that provides for the transfer of information without a copy being made at the same time. So if there was some kind of "digital library" protocol, which simultaneously deleted the bits of a file from my hard drive, as those bits were being sent down the wire and written to your hard drive, then I think you'd have a defense that you were only "lending" the file. But since such a protocol doesn't exist, and because it's commonly known that computers make copies when they exchange data, the "library defense" doesn't fly.
  • Re:Oh bloody hell (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 26, 2006 @12:58AM (#14565148)
    You're just choosing the most outlandish interpretation of a vague statement so you can ridicule it.

    Note: lawyers never, ever do this. Ever. Because that would just be unethical.

    do you really think they're arguing copyright holders can't distribute their own files?

    Let me explain this because you have apparently spent the last century in a cave... on Mars... with your eyes shut and your fingers in your ears.

    Yes. You see, thanks to the way our legal system is constructed, many things that most people would consider absurd or, at the very least, counterintuitive, are in fact true in a legal sense. For instance, you don't actually own any CDs or DVDs, you have, in fact, leased the content on them when you paid for them.

    In other news, you can be legally innocent of a crime but still, somehow, civilly liable for it.

    Somewhere in this country, at this very moment, a lawyer is arguing that black is, in fact, a shade of gray... that ketchup is a vegetable... that pulling your fingernails out with pliers isn't torture...

    Now you think about what you said.
  • by ePhil_One ( 634771 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:08AM (#14565190) Journal
    because I think this line of thinking could lead to strange places

    Such as the fact XP has default "admin shares" of the local drives, so that copying the music anyware on your hard drive could technically be construed as "making available for distribution". This leads to some really bad places if the interpretation is that general.

  • And the use you're stating (profit from ads) would be an industrial, for-profit motive, just as would be republication in a newspaper or magazine, and even -my- proposed restrictions would apply. On the other hand, if I think the article's interesting, and want to print it out to show a friend who doesn't have net access, or email it to a friend that accepts only text emails (no links), that shouldn't be illegal (even technically) for me to do-I'm not profiting. I'd also have no trouble with an attribution requirement, but that's not normally a problem on filesharing networks-the sharers aren't generally claiming that they filmed the movie or wrote the song.

    Plagiarism is a different story, but you don't even need copyright to prevent that. Copying without citation is an implicit claim that that's your original work. If it's not, that's fraud, and defamation of the original writer-and we've got plenty of very good laws against fraud and defamation.

  • Re:Oh bloody hell (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:54AM (#14565345) Homepage Journal
    Ah, but the mere fact that they can't sue for distributing your own files under current law doesn't mean that this isn't the RIAA's endgame. My theory? They look with envy at trade union laws that make it illegal to do certain types of construction work (generally with exceptions for your own home) without being a member of a trade guild, having been certified by a particular commercial certifying agency, whatever, and similarly look with envy at commercial standards bodies whose standards get signed into law by reference, but which are only available for a sizable fee from those standards bodies.

    If you think for one -minute- that if the RIAA had the power make it illegal for people to distribute their own music on their own, they wouldn't create those restrictions in a heartbeat without a second thought, you're nuts. Just watch. I figure it won't be long before they try to pass laws that say things like:

    To prevent damage to the public good through the deceptive sale of inferior quality music in the form of {CDs, digital downloads, *}, no person shall distribute such content for sale without first being at least at the journeyman level (or equivalent) in the AFM trade union (or insert some other similar union here; I'm not picking on AFM or anything...).

    To further prevent similar damage through the sale of inferior quality recordings, no label shall release music in these forms without applying all relevant RIAA standards during the production, sale, and distribution of this recording. These standards are available for free for RIAA members, or may be licensed for the reasonable fee of $250,000 per annum from the RIAA.

    It's just a matter of time. Make no mistake. These suits were never about piracy. They were about control. They are losing control, and they are grasping at every last little bit of grass at the edge of the cliff trying to avoid falling over it. Won't help. The end is near.

  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @02:27AM (#14565446) Journal
    Good luck. What is needed is more like you at a faster rate. As more kids realize that the good music is available via download and/or via the groups own CDs, then RIAA will disappear. I am waiting for the first big group to make it on their own and advertise that fact. At that point, few will go with a label (way too expensive on future profits).
  • by trezor ( 555230 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:43AM (#14565650) Homepage

    It is very hard to tell the difference between works in the public domain and copyrighted works without a notice.

    No, it isn't. Anything released after the first Micket Mouse movie = copyrighted.

    I don't know if this is supposed to be funny or just sad, but that's more or less the essence of copyright these days.

  • Does this mean? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TallMatthew ( 919136 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @04:42AM (#14565759)
    If I take the CDs in my collection I don't like and put them outside my apartment so anyone on the street can pick them up, I'm breaking the law?
  • by orthogonal ( 588627 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @05:17AM (#14565831) Journal
    Did anyone read the linked-to material? They are saying that putting *copyrighted* materials in a shared folder is illegal. Not just sharing any files

    Technically, any creative work is copyrighted. If I write some code, is it illegal for me to put it into a shared folder? What if I write it, like most employed coders, as work for hire, such that my employer owns it? Have I broken the law by putting in a shared folder? Have I broken the law by uploading it to a publicly read-able CVS repository?

    Hey, my briefcase has a copyrighted book in it. I accidently left my briefcase open, next to copy machine, where anybody could have made copies of that book. Am I guilty of illegal negligence, or am I just a straight up "thief"?

    I own a bunch of copyrighted books. There's a Kinkos down the street. Is it illegal for me to leave my front door open? Can I put my books on the porch? Can I lend one to my next door neighbor, or is any of that illegal too?

    This is a bizarre criminalization of mundane, innocent, and customary activities, solely intended to create a climate of fear.

    More and more, our every-day right to "pursue happiness" is being taken away by those who profit by making us fear.

    Look, I agree, the record companies have a right to copyright. But Americans have a right not to live in fear. We've got thousands of people living in fear in order to provide fancy cars and three houses each for a few record company execs. It goes too far.

    It's time for all of us to draw a line in the sand, and say we won't live in fear anymore. America's turning into Orwell's worst nightmare, the dirty drab gray life of a rat hiding in the shadows to avoid the stomping jackboots.

    If this bullshit is "safety" from "the terrorists" I don't want to be safe anymore.

    If living in fear is the cost of listing to the latest boy band from Sony, it's not worth it anymore.

    It's time for Americans to get up on our hind legs like men and tell the fear-mongers that we've had it with them.

  • Re:Look... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by meringuoid ( 568297 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @05:20AM (#14565838)
    If you suspect that the artist would not want you distributing their stuff, or helping yourself to a copy without paying it, then DON'T. Why? The golden rule. You would not want the artist to ignore your wishes.

    Very well, now let's apply the Golden Rule to sharing of toys as per Sesame Street:

    Cool Toy Co. would very much prefer it if every kid who wanted to play with Cool Toy bought their own. Therefore you shouldn't share your Cool Toy; only you are licensed to play with it, and your friends should buy their own. You would not want Cool Toy Co. to ignore your wishes, would you?

  • by giorgiofr ( 887762 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @06:57AM (#14566035)
    And it makes you look stupid. Administrative shares like \C$ are NOT ACCESSIBLE when the admin's password is blank.
  • by J_Darnley ( 918721 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @09:22AM (#14566465)
    In most cases, being stupid isn't a crime.
    It bloody should be crime.

Syntactic sugar causes cancer of the semicolon. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982