From the Barstool of the Publisher – October, 2008

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From the Barstool of the Publisher

If this appeal doesn’t work we’re all completely screwed.

As we were going to press the future of Jammie Thomas was uncertain. Thomas is the woman who the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is suing for sharing a total of 24 files over the peer-to-peer network Kazaa.

Last year she was convicted and a jury in Duluth, Minn., ordered her to pay $222,000 to six record companies. Imagine that. You think iTunes’ price of 99 cents per song is too much? Imagine paying $9,250 per song!

Luckily for Thomas, in the last week of September, the judge in the case granted a new trial explaining that he had made an error during jury instructions that “substantially prejudiced” her rights. Without going into the legal mumbo-jumbo of it all, the judge is allowing a new case and in a kind of surprising move, he is asking Congress to change the federal Copyright Act to address this issue specifically, so anyone found guilty in the future would not be subject to oppressive and disproportionate fines.

Thomas’ shared library consisted of three CDs worth of songs, CDs that if purchased separately would have cost $54. Yet, the record companies want more than $200,000 in damages, and what’s even more messed up is that under the law they’re entitled to seek up to $150,000 per song! Not per album, not per hard drive — per SONG!

This is the first case like this to ever reach trial, as others have simply settled their cases, so the outcome of this is critical and could end up impacting music freaks for many years, if not decades to come.

I’m all about artists and the labels that they work under being paid for their music, but going after people in this way is only going to make people be more creative in how they share music.
It would take a little bit, but I can e-mail a whole album worth of stuff in no time now and as net speeds increase it’s going to get easier and easier to do that.

If the RIAA wants to protect its musicians it’s going to need to do more than slap a single mother with a quarter-million dollars in fines. She wasn’t trying to “distribute” this music, she certainly wasn’t making any money off this music, she was sharing music. Remember that term, sharing?
We learned about it in kindergarten. It’s going to keep happening, and it’s going to get even easier to do. So instead of fines and trials, the RIAA needs to find other ways they can help protect artists. I don’t have the answers, but it doesn’t take a “rocket surgeon” to know this route won’t be effective.

See you at the shows.

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1 Comment

  1. I wonder how much of that money will actually go to the artists. A well known artist just mentioned to me that when his last album came out several hundred CD’s were released to a distributer who took them, sold them on her own and kept the money. If the record company sued her and got the money we don’t know but he certainly never got a penny. Now in all truth, wouldn’t this kind of crime be MUCH worse than sharing 3 CD’s with a few friends???

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