Who Hijacked Our Country

Monday, November 17, 2008

Lawsuit Against the Recording Industry Association of America

Finally. After spending five years extorting millions of dollars from music listeners, the RIAA is being taken to court. The RIAA has been using the court system as their own personal bludgeon (with deafening silence from the same conservatives who are always blathering about “too much litigation” and “activist judges”), and now they’re about to get clubbed with their own weapon.

The recording industry has been using the Digital Theft Deterrence and Copyright Damages Improvement Act of 1999 as the legal basis for their shakedowns. And now a Harvard law professor, Charles Nesson, has filed suit saying that law is unconstitutional.

His reasoning is that this law allows a private organization — in this case the RIAA — to carry out enforcement of a criminal law. He also says the recording industry abuses the legal process by extorting huge out-of-court payments from their victims, under the threat of an even larger fine and/or prison sentence.

In my own non-expert un-lawyerly opinion, the RIAA has been violating the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution — unless you know of somebody who got a $500,000 fine for stealing a CD from Wal-Mart.

Charles Nesson is the founder of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. He says his goal is to “turn the courts away from allowing themselves to be used like a low-grade collection agency.”

Nesson’s résumé is pretty impressive. He defended Daniel Ellsberg against the Nixon Administration in the Pentagon Papers case. He was also a consultant in a major case against chemical companies, which was portrayed in the movie “A Civil Action.”

His upcoming battle with the RIAA thugs might be his biggest challenge yet. Godspeed.

cross-posted at Bring It On

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Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

Dunno. I've looked on at RIAA's exploits, not liking what the outfit was doing.

And yet, I saw a musician and song writer being interviewed awhile back. He talked about how cool it must've been in the '70s and '80s, when bands could record their music and make some money from record and tape sales. He wasn't angry, just resigned.

This guy said the way things are going, there won't be a music industry any more. With cyber music and canned music, black market CD's and whole college campuses ripping music from the Net 24/7, why should anyone pay for anything?

The Net and technology have changed things profoundly. I don't think what RIAA is trying to do will stop the pirating. There's no going back. And the way ahead won't just be all-you-can-take freebies, either.

November 18, 2008 at 12:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

SW: I'm not trying to pretend people who download illegally are guardian angels. But the penalties are totally out of proportion to the crime. It's all the worst of Big Brother and corporate greed combined into one atrocity. And the recording industry has had this attitude for decades. Screwing musicians, overcharging for records, and blaming everybody except themselves when their business slumps. In the 1970s and early '80s, people who taped songs off the radio were singlehandedly responsible for the music industry slump. Now it's those wicked downloaders. It's easier to point the finger than to say "what could I be doing differently?"

Technology has been changing rapidly (and will be changing even faster). I'm too much of a Luddite to even grasp current or future inventions. Everybody -- musicians, the public, the law, record companies -- will eventually have to work this out. There'll be lots of bugs and speed bumps along the way.

November 18, 2008 at 12:46 AM  
Blogger LET'S TALK said...

A closer look at RIAA is just what the Doctor ordered. Its funny how they can stop smaller recording companies from ever getting off the ground, yet cry foul about the downloads of "their" recordings, after ripping off the artist themselves.

November 18, 2008 at 2:19 AM  
Blogger Randal Graves said...

Tom, I'm with you on this. Not that I disagree with you, SWA, at all. One should always be on the side of the musicians when it's them vs. labels.

I'm old school in that I still buy physical CDs and have downloaded a grand total of two songs, and so I know I'm part of an incredible shrinking demographic, but the RIAA are simply a bunch of thugs. Maybe some of the lower level employees care, but I'd wager most of the bigwigs are about money over art.

November 18, 2008 at 9:17 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Let's Talk: That's exactly it. They don't give a flying fuck about songwriters and recording artists, even though they're full of rhetoric about "we're doing this for the artists!" They've been shortchanging and ripping off their own musicians for decades, and then they turn around and pretend they're protecting them. Assholes.

Randal: I've never downloaded any music, legally or illegally (unless playing YouTube videos counts). I not only still buy CDs; I still sometimes tape songs off the radio (and yet I don't have a rocking chair, a hearing aid or Depends).

For the people who run the RIAA, it's just a business. It could be music, insurance, widgets or whatever -- they're only in it for the money. (And speaking of Frank Zappa...)

November 18, 2008 at 12:19 PM  
Anonymous Kvatch said...

Bout frickin' time! When the RIAA lawyers asserted that copying one's own CDs was actionable copyright infringement, I just about swallowed my tongue.

The RIAA needs to be consigned to the 8th plane of hell.

November 18, 2008 at 3:59 PM  
Anonymous Bee said...

I heard something, somewhere, and wish I could remember where or when (and no, I'm not in the depends either, yet) about how this RIAA bunch wanted to try to shut down used music outlets. Give me a break! Someone, somewhere, already paid for the music, why should someone pay full price again and again and again?? RIAA is out of control, it will be nice to see them cut off at the knees.

November 18, 2008 at 4:29 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Bee: I think that was a few years ago. The RIAA and a few musicians were threatening record stores that sold used CDs. I think Garth Brooks was one of the musicians (using the term loosely) involved; I think he said he wouldn't allow any of his CDs to be sold in any store that sold used CDs.

It'll be nice to see the RIAA, and some of the more anal-retentive musicians, go the way of the Brontosaurus.

November 18, 2008 at 5:18 PM  
Anonymous JollyRoger said...

The RIAA has rigged the game to a degree where the average million-selling album will GROSS the artist about $50,000.00

I haven't bought a RIAA product in 8 years. F**K THE RIAA.

November 18, 2008 at 6:24 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

JR: Way to go, not buying any of their products for 8 years. They've definitely got the deck stacked.

November 18, 2008 at 7:45 PM  
Blogger Carlos said...

Right on! Corporate fucks should have to do it the same way we peon fucks do it - report it to the authorities and wait!

November 19, 2008 at 3:03 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Carlos: Damn right. I'm tired of these double standards, where large corporations can use government agencies as their personal errand boy; but for everybody else it's "limited government" and "fend for yourself."

November 19, 2008 at 10:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If they are not a member of law enforcement then they can't enforce the laws they violate by steeling artist's copyrights and slapping their record lable upon a song they make public domain by playing it over the airwaves in an unregulated fasion.

December 2, 2008 at 10:27 PM  

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