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FSF Reaches Out to RIAA Victims 329

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "In what has been termed the ''RIAA's worst nightmare', the Free Software Foundation has announced that it is coming to the aid of the victims of RIAA lawsuits, by establishing an Expert Witness Defense Fund to assist defendants in RIAA cases. The purpose of the fund is 'to help provide computer expert witnesses to combat RIAA's ongoing lawsuits, and to defend against the RIAA's attempt to redefine copyright law.' The funds will be used to pay fees and/or expenses of technical expert witnesses, forensic examiners, and other technical consultants assisting individuals named as defendants in non-commercial, peer-to-peer file sharing cases brought by the RIAA, EMI, SONY BMG, Vivendi Universal, and Warner Bros. Records, and their affiliated companies, such as Interscope, Arista, UMG, Fonovisa, Motown, Atlantic, Priority, and others."
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FSF Reaches Out to RIAA Victims

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  • And what about? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jackharrer ( 972403 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @05:25PM (#21412799)
    Lawyers. Who's going to pay for them? Cost of technical examiners is nothing comparing to what they charge.
    Do it as in Europe - losing side pays for everything, and they will stop pretty quick.
  • Not good. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 19, 2007 @05:25PM (#21412805)
    The FSF needs to remain focused on developing free as in libre software. There's no reason
    for them to get involved in intellectual property disputes of this nature (I specify because
    I could see reason to become involved in software patent IP issues). The last thing the free
    software community needs is to be identified with people downloading illegally from the pirate's
    bay, *nova, etc.
  • Bad idea (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BlowHole666 ( 1152399 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @05:28PM (#21412849)
    Will people now associate free software with illegal activities or supporting illegal activities? I know that is not what they are doing they are helping innocent (sometimes) people from getting corn holed by the RIAA. But could the RIAA, Microsoft or other non free software people put a spin on this and say this foundation supports law breaking and if you support this foundation you also support breaking the law? I just say this because sometimes people do not get the full story before making up their mind about software, an organization, business etc.
  • Go FSF! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TheVelvetFlamebait ( 986083 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @05:30PM (#21412867) Journal
    While I believe the RIAA is doing the right thing defending their IP, I must say I applaud the FSF for helping keep the judicial process fair and even. It's high time for this kind of intervention. I respect that the RIAA can't exactly fight full, drawn out battles against everyone, but this kind of abuse of the court system simply isn't justified. Sorry.
  • by nweaver ( 113078 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @05:34PM (#21412921) Homepage
    The problem is, by the standards of a civil suit (preponderence of the evidence), the RIAA is able to kick butt on the forensics.

    Its sloppy, its crappy, but when you have "Identify user's ip, user name, and the same username used on a bunch of legitimate sites", it becomes hard to contest the evidence sufficiently to establish nonresponsibility.
  • Why? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by moderators_are_w*nke ( 571920 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @05:36PM (#21412945) Journal
    In all honesty, why? Admittedly, the FSF is more of a political organisation than a technical one, but why are they interested in defending file sharers? They should be promoting free software development with that money, not attempting to get people off (the admittedly ridiculous) fines imposed by the US courts the got because they were too lazy and / or tight to go down the record store and pay money for the (admittedly overpriced) music.

    I quote "The Free Software Foundation (FSF), established in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users' rights to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs.". Thats computer programs, not MP3z. FFS, people donate money to the FSF for their work, if I had and found out they were spending it on this I'm be pretty miffed.

    Right, tin hat on...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 19, 2007 @05:55PM (#21413143)

    who appointed Ray Beckerman the primary RIAA gestapo?
    As far as I know, Ray Beckerman volunteered to help the cause. And it is indeed volunteering: he goes well beyond the normal call of duty for his pay/occupation. He pursues his cases with a diligence and excellence that is remarkable.

    What about having a disinterested party as the fund adviser?
    I understand the need for transparency, but if Ray is willing to undertake the task (and it will no doubt involve some tedious paperwork and such), then that's great. He is in a position to make informed choices, and to use this money to greatest effect.

    Moreover it's not like he is a rogue agent here. The FSF will of course have a say in what happens. So, to the extent you trust the FSF and Ray, this is a good choice. Since both of them have proven track records of protecting individual rights, I'd say that donating to this cause is a good idea. (And, in the unlikely event that either does something to undermine their reputation, we can all donate our money elsewhere.)

  • Re:And what about? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Splab ( 574204 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @06:03PM (#21413237)
    Frivolous lawsuits are not happening here. There was a brief time where we had (in Denmark) something like RIAA trying to extort people, but quickly people decided to fight back and I haven't heard of any new tries at this (one case made it all the way to court and the defendant won that afair).
  • Re:And what about? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by garett_spencley ( 193892 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @06:05PM (#21413279) Journal
    What I would like to see is for the court expenses be limited to what the less wealthy side can afford, and if the wealthier side wants to spend more, require them to cover the difference whether they win or lose.

    So when a single mother of 4 who works double shifts at walmart and can barely make ends meet gets sued by the RIAA the court costs become $0 ?

    Sounds like a great way to screw the lawyers (and the RIAA).

    Where do I sign up ?
  • Re:And what about? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Toonol ( 1057698 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @06:46PM (#21413761)
    That's pretty much what I've been advocating. "Loser Pays", with the variant that the loser must pay the winner's legal fees up to the amount equal to the minimum of the two side's spending.

    Rich corp spends $50,000 suing poor single mom, who spends $1,000 defending herself. They win, she pays $1,000 of their expenses. They lose, they pay $1,000 of the mom's expenses.

    Two Rich cops sue each other: They each spend $1,000,000. Loser pays full amount.

    I think this would have the effect of making penalties fairer, and provide incentive to both sides to keep legal costs in check. I like loser pays, but if unchecked, it could serve as a tool of intimidation for wealthy companies and individuals.
  • Interesting to me that this post comes from a new member who has never commented before. Methinks I detect an RIAA troll. Any post that starts off "I hate the RIAA as much as the rest of you, but..." is usually highly suspect.
  • "What about having a disinterested party as the fund adviser?
    I frankly don't understand your point (or why anyone modded you up), and if you RTFA you'd see that Ray Beckerman is not the "sole" advisor. "The Fund will be advised by Ray Beckerman, the author of Recording Industry vs. The People, along with a group of selected attorneys acting as advisors" I also want a VERY interested party to decide where funds should go, and why wouldn't it go wherever it hits the RIAA the hardest? You do realize it is a common law system right? Court decisions are relied on by other courts, meaning that if you hit the RIAA hard, you might knock them out for all future lawsuits. If the objective is to kill these RIAA lawsuits in the most efficient and effective manner, then why the hell wouldn't I want Ray Beckerman managing it?! Hell - I'm donating BECAUSE Ray is managing it, and being in Canada I don't even get a tax dedcution!
    Thank you very much, kwandar.

    I know most of my fellow Slashdotters don't like it when I say this, but I'm sure the guy who posted the parent post is an RIAA troll. He just joined, this was his first comment, he started out "I hate the RIAA as much as the next guy" (which is always a dead giveaway), and his profile is silent. Plus he made an asinine suggestion which would play right into his employer's -- I mean the RIAA's -- hands.
  • by viking80 ( 697716 ) on Monday November 19, 2007 @10:07PM (#21415583) Journal
    I would like to suggest that this fund auction off "Lunch with Ray Beckerman" once a month. Maybe other celebrities will donate their lunches to the fund as well. That could generate both revenue and keep the fund in the news.

    How about it Ray?
  • Re:Go FSF! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheVelvetFlamebait ( 986083 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @03:42AM (#21417511) Journal

    That is absolutely false, and I'm fairly sure you know it. Or do you actually believe that nobody has ever, or will ever again, create any form of art unless they're compensated monetarily for it?

    Naturally not. Not everyone expects to be paid for their art. There will always be people who produce art for free. Just don't expect the same volume, the same time put in, the same attention to detail, the same instruments to be used, the same collaboration opportunities, the same talent pool, the same variety of different genres, the same widespread market penetration, etc, etc. Pouring money in and letting consumers decide is the best way in this capitalist society to improve any potential industry.

    it seems likely a lot of people will try to create popular art for the sole purpose of achieving recognition (fame).

    Which will skew the art produced. It will skew heavily against subtle, non-vocalised music, or against unbranded software, or behind-the-camera documentary making. Certainly it'll skew against anything that costs any significant amount of money.

    This may be a nett gain or loss, but we won't suddenly end up deprived of any form of art and culture if we stop paying people to make copies of it.

    Oh yes we will. As an experiment, why don't you see if you can get funding for a big blockbuster movie, with the stipulation that it'll be released into the public domain? Or perhaps a blockbuster game for the PS3, making good use of its raw power? Or even just music album that isn't one of those sells-for-sure pop albums (i.e. anything with any degree of financial risk)? It's not possible. It's not really because the publishing companies (who are necessary for tying the who project together) are greedy so much as they literally can't afford it. And even excluding those, there will be a significant drop in music production. How would you feel if there were only two or so movies/albums produced per year that were worth watching, and even then they are amateurishly produced, and suffer from picture/sound quality issues? That may well be the future without copyright that we're looking at.

    Mr2001 is right on a fundamental level

    People like Mr2001 are always right on the fundamental level, but abstract principles give way to the interests of the people, and as far as I can tell, the people want a healthy culture.

    Change is inevitable, and almost always unpleasant. At least for a while. Eventually a new stable model will emerge.

    So you're meaning to tell me that you think we should ditch copyright and hope a new business model will materialise soon after, and that we shouldn't wait, find a new business model, try against the current business model, and decide which is superior, because it's unpleasant but inevitable? WTF?

    Mr2001 suggests a possible model.

    The beauty of copyright is that Mr2001 is free to release his art under his suggested model. Better still, if it works, it may well become the model-of-choice for everyone! Mr2001, however, has no right to force his model on everyone else, as abolishing copyrights would do.

    Here's another one: if art is so important to us as a society, why not just use tax money to pay artists to create new art?

    I, for one, actually like that suggestion. Art, ideally, belongs to the people, and if the government pays for it, then indeed the artist would get reimbursed, and the people get his art. This has been often implemented partially through government grants, so we have some idea that it works. However, the downside is that everyone will end up paying for a copy of every artwork. If you thought it was a drain paying for a few albums, a few movies, and a few pieces of software, imagine having to pay for thousands through taxes! It would also lower the number artworks produced, decrease the amount of money paid to the artist per artwo

  • Re:Go FSF! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheVelvetFlamebait ( 986083 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @06:33AM (#21418209) Journal

    The current system doesn't skew the way art is produced?

    Only in terms of popularity. Thus the more demanded art will be produced more. But that isn't really a problem since there is plenty of art production for all art forms, just some will be produced more than others, but still enough to satisfy anyone. Not so with no copyright. With an anaemic, underfunded culture, expensive artwork production will be slim to non-existent.
    Besides, with copyright, artists have a choice of distribution method. There's nothing stopping the people who'd produce in a copyright-free society from producing their art. Without copyright, the artists have absolutely no choice. You are unavoidably cutting down options by taking down copyright.

    You speak of blockbuster movies, but is that really the particular expression of film-making artistry which is most beneficial to society? Blockbuster movies are by definition popular, but do they really enrich our culture, or are they largely the same ideas recycled over and over? Would we as a society be better off without such things, in the long term?

    What are you, a member of some kind of cultural elite? On one hand, we have people like you, telling others what's good and bad art. Your authority is that you really, really like certain artworks, and not others. Then we have the entire population, voting with their wallets. Their authority is the fact that they are everyone who will enjoy the art. I would have to say the most popular art, if anything, would trump your suggestions. I'm not really for having a cultural dictatorship, especially one that seems so divorced from the wants of the people.

    The real profits here belong to those who can distribute the material, and maximising profits requires giving the artists creating the material as little as possible. If you consider the music industry at the moment, artists are effectively competing against each other to offer the labels the best possible deal.

    So now we're back on topic. The art industry happens to be very profitable, and also happens to satisfy a lot of people. They help lower the barrier of entry for artists even lower, thus encouraging art production even more. They DON'T just produce "lowest common denominator" art. They produce many varieties of art, with differing popularities. There are only two reasons why they would avoid a market is either no-one wants it, or the market is already being dominated by an independent publisher (i.e. the market's needs are already satisfied). Think about it. If there is solid demand, why wouldn't they explore the market? Either way, it's not a blemish against copyright.

    The distributor itself -- the one who gains most of the profits from selling copies of art -- is actively encouraged to devalue the work of the artist.

    And those mean consumers! They are actively encouraged to devalue the work of whom they're buying from! It's the nature of any free market exchange. If you don't want to be screwed over, don't devalue yourself! Next you'll be guilt-tripping me because I sometimes shop at a discount store, one that could be charging market prices. I wonder how I live with myself?

    Ooh, scary. It may just as well not be the case.

    Ooh, reassuring. I suppose we shouldn't worry about firing off nuclear weaponry against Iraq, because we might not cause nuclear holocaust.

    Production technologies are better and more affordable than ever; there's no shortage of people interesting in the creation and production of film and music and other forms of modern art.

    But obviously not affordable enough, based on the number of artists who need to sign with publishers. I still haven't seen a viable alternative for financing those blockbusters that so many other people like.

    It's interesting that you use a "music album that isn't one of those sells-for-sure pop albums (

  • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) * on Tuesday November 20, 2007 @02:45PM (#21423937) Journal

    and they are making false representations to the Court about the evidence.

    If they are actually doing that (and I don't doubt you that they are) then it's obviously a different matter and they deserve to be punished harshly by the Court and the relevant Bar Associations.

    Has anybody looked into this and sought sanctions against them?

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