Copyright Rewrite: In the name of Musicians, in the pocket of Big Business

As the US Copyright Office pushes forward with plans for the largest overhaul of copyright in decades, it is important not to fall back to the same patterns that have eviscerated musicians and other creative producers. These copyright rewrites always end-up making powerful copyright interests more powerful. Continue reading

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Musicians are Laborers

Previously, I mentioned that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) won its first lawsuit against people sharing music via the Internet. As long as there has been copyright legislation, there has been “piracy” – I’m sure that someone was bootlegging print copies of Beethoven’s symphonies. However, no one had been charged for pirating something where they were in turn not profiting from its sale. Sharing music online is not the same thing as selling illegally reproduced music. Furthermore, all of this is being done in the name of the musicians – the RIAA argues that when people download music on file-sharing programs, they are stealing from musicians. But where is the money going from the RIAA’s litigation? Typically the money from lawsuits (not just about file-sharing) goes back to the RIAA and the major record labels. What follows is a brief explanation of why the RIAA and the major record labels are more exploitative of musicians than file-sharers. Future blog posts will further elucidate the erroneous nature of the music industry’s arguments about file-sharing.

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RIAA lands a lawsuit win

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has been filing lawsuits against “pirates” (aka music file-sharers) since 2003, but few people have tried to fight them. They sue users for an absurd amount of money for each song that they upload and these people usually have uploaded songs in the 1000s. In fact no case has gone to trial . . . until now. A jury “found Jammie Thomas-Rasset guilty of willfully violating copyright law” – cost: $1.92 million! You read that right, $1,920,000 or $80,000 per song and they convicted her of sharing 24 songs. Continue reading