Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Non-news update: labels file a trickle of individual suits -- just like they said they would

The usual suspects are in full fulmination over the "news" that the major record labels continue to file a trickle of lawsuits against individual alleged p2p infringers, calling this evidence that the RIAA's earlier statements about its litigation campaign were a "total fabrication" and a "PR stunt."

As I've previously explained in great detail, this characterization is false. The RIAA (which coordinates the suits on behalf of the labels) never said it was immediately stopping all suits against individuals. Rather, as the original WSJ report explained, the labels were stopping "mass suits," and
the industry group is reserving the right to sue people who are particularly heavy file sharers, or who ignore repeated warnings.
the so-called "new" suits being filed aren't really new; they are mostly conversions of previous "John Doe" suits against defendants whose names have now been revealed through the subpoena process. When the RIAA announced that the labels would cease initiating new suits, it has explained that what it meant was that it would cease initiating the process which often resulted in suits -- but that in most cases it would continue with the cases that were already in the pipeline. (This is not news; Wired reported it December 23, 2008.)

And, despite Techdirt's effort to dismiss these facts as the invention of "
Hollywood lawyers," they are the same facts that have been reported in publications ranging from the Wall Street Journal to Wired. And Nate Anderson of Ars Technica, a tech-oriented publication that is often very critical of the labels, did his own reporting and concluded:
Whatever its reasons for continuing to litigate these cases, the RIAA at least appears to be sticking by the letter of the terms of its announcement last year; the labels described what they were going to do and are sticking with it.
(my emphasis).

One can agree or disagree with the labels' litigation tactics. But the effort to falsely portray them as inconsistent with what the RIAA has said it would do all along says a lot more about the RIAA derangement syndrome that afflicts some elements of the anti-RIAA blogosphere than it does about the RIAA itself.

UPDATE: Wired agrees:

Indeed, wired.com reported in December that the RIAA would continue to pursue lawsuits that were already in the “pipeline.” That appears to be precisely what’s happening here.

It’s fun to give the RIAA a hard time, because their strategy of fighting music fans and the internet has at times seemed hopelessly quixotic at best, and downright mean at worst. In this instance, there doesn’t appear to be much to complain about.

Strangely, Wired also says, "To be clear, the RIAA has never sued anyone for downloading — it’s the sharing that gets you noticed." Huh? Take a look at paragraph 13 of the Joel Tenenbaum complaint (which I understand is substantively identical to the thousands of other complaints filed by the labels):

Defendant has used...and continues to use, an online media distribution system to download the copyrighted Recordings...

It is true that "it’s the sharing that gets you noticed" -- the labels identify potential defendants by viewing what's in their shared folders -- but it's both the downloading and the "sharing" (uploading) that gets you sued.

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