[linux-elitists] RIAA Versus the Internet: PART III - A New Hope

Ben Finney ben@benfinney.id.au
Sun Oct 21 18:07:38 PDT 2007

On 21-Oct-2007, Ruben Safir wrote:
> Usenet is a relatively centralized method for users to distribute 
> files and messages [...]
> The protocol has stayed relatively "under the radar" [...]

Okay, so Usenet is a "relatively decentralised method" and a 
"protocol". Sounds close enough.

> According to the legal brief, the defendant, Usenet, [...]

Er? How is an information-distribution method or a network protocol 
able to be "the defendant" in a lawsuit? In fact, it's "Usenet.com" 
that is the defendant, not Usenet itself.

> This advantage gives newsgroups extremely fast download speeds, but 
> steep learning curve and limitted access keeps the userbase 
> relatively low.

Rubbish. The learning curve is no steeper than with e-mail, and that 
hasn't stopped e-mail from being the most heavily-used network service 
for decades. Whatever it is that keeps the Usenet userbase low, it 
isn't "steep learning curve".

> The protocol has stayed relatively "under the radar" in the wake of 
> Napster, Kazaa and other P2P networks. Even though the popularity of 
> Usenet has been on the decline since the late 1990s, the service 
> never fully died out, and remains popular for images, videos and 
> binary file sharing.

With technical help forums conspicuously omitted by the author, 
leaving the impression that Usenet is only for binary file sharing. 
Yet a large number of Usenet providers *don't* provide the binary 
groups at all, feeding only the text discussion groups.

Even more than for the file-sharing networks, it's clear that Usenet 
has "substantial non-infringing uses".

> The RIAA filed a lawsuit against Usenet.com on Oct. 12, claiming the 
> newsgroups harbors "millions of copyrighted sound recordings." [...]

The Library of Congress also harbours a great deal of copyrighted 
sound recordings. Just because a work is copyrighted doesn't mean it's 
illegal to download it.

> According to the legal brief, the defendant, Usenet, "provides 
> essentially the same functionality that P2P services such as 
> Napster, Aimster, Grokster and Kazaa did (prior to being enjoined by 
> the federal courts)

Plus a huge range of text-only discussion groups, which makes the 
service fundamentally *unlike* those P2P file-sharing services.

> knowingly providing the site and facilities for users to upload and 
> download copyrighted works

Every website in the world provides copyrighted works to be 
downloaded, and the hosting providers allow those to be uploaded by at 
least some people. Copyrighted does not yet equate to inaccessible — 
much though the RIAA would prefer otherwise.

> Marketing on the Usenet.com web site likely does not help its case 
> against the RIAA:  "Shh... Quiet! We believe it’s no one’s business 
> but your own what you do on the Internet or in Usenet. We don't 
> track user activity."

If proclaiming a lack of invasive tracking is enough to mar one's 
defense against extortion, that implies the court is already firmly 
against the civil liberties espoused by that statement.

> The RIAA's up-and-down battle against file sharing continues, both 
> with battle victories and losses.  The RIAA won a civil court battle 
> over a Minnesota woman, who must now pay $222,000 worth of damages 
> to the record industry.

Which they'll never see more than a fraction of, I'm betting. 
Individuals struggle their whole lives to pay that much off on 
something they *own*, much less a copyright extortion settlement.

I'm of the opinion this attack on the service providers is an attempt 
to deflect anger against exactly this kind of "sue your customers" 
activity that has been such a PR disaster.

 \      "For mad scientists who keep brains in jars, here's a tip: why |
  `\    not add a slice of lemon to each jar, for freshness?"  -- Jack |
_o__)                                                           Handey |
Ben Finney <ben@benfinney.id.au>
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