Wednesday, October 29, 2003

More RIAA Lunacy

I am consistently appalled at the actions of the RIAA. I recently ran across this article on CNN in which the sued a 12 year old girl for having downloaded songs on her computer. This is a 12 year old girl!!! She had to settle for $2,000, but the RIAA states that they could have sued for up to $250,000 and 3 years in prison. Now how many 12 year olds have $2,000 to pay for something like this? Also, wouldn’t it have been more responsible to sue the parents since they allowed it? Well, nevermind, they did already do that, along with grandparents as well. Now, I’m not saying they should be suing anybody, but a 12 year old girl isn’t an obvious target.

They so often wonder why cd sales are declining. This, of course, is an ongoing argument everywhere at the moment, and even I have touched upon it before, but the lengths that they are going to seem to press the boundaries of good taste. They also show a disordering of priorities. Why should they be so worried about a little girl with a bunch of songs on her computer when there are illegal cd duplicating rings operating all over the world and in the US? Hit the big pirates and see if that helps out your sales. If it does not, then maybe focus on the smaller fish in the sea.

The only reason that they appear to do this is intimidation. They want everyone to be scared. They want to equate the words download and mp3 with criminal and illegal. To complicate matters, most people don’t know what is fair use and what isn’t. Can I rip a cd to my harddrive and then put it on my ipod? Can I have the mp3’s I ripped on my ipod and on my laptop at work? Can my friends listen to my mp3’s if I’m not using them (like lending a book to a friend)? I often wonder what is legal myself because the RIAA never seems to make it clear what you can and can’t do. Am I acting criminally if I am sharing my mp3’s online if I own the mp3’s on my harddrive? What if I’m downloading mp3’s of the cds I already own? No one seems to have a clear answer to these questions. Depending on who you ask, you’ll get different answers.

When I reflect upon the actions of the RIAA, I often wonder what it would be like if other bodies tried to solve their problems the RIAA way—through intimidation. Look at college plagiarism. It happens, there’s no doubt about that, much like piracy is a guarantee. Instead of punishing and hunting down people who plagiarized an entire paper, the administrator’s enforced strict penalties on those individual’s who may have copied a paragraph or small section of their paper, maybe not even knowing that they were doing something wrong (they forgot to cite the passage or some other small mistake). I would be afraid to ever quote another work or present summaries of other ideas.

That may not be the best example in the world to use for a comparison, but I often think of what would happen if we tried to punish the small offenders over the larger offenders for intimidation’s sake. Sure, there would probably be less of that crime, but people would also be much more afraid to do things in general, especially those things that might potentially be viewed as illegal, but are completely legit. Copyright law has become so convoluted and messy that I simply can’t tell what’s right and what’s wrong. I can disassemble my toaster to do make a hand warmer, but if I take apart my xbox to do something besides play games, I’m breaking the law. Why is there this distinction? Where is the line drawn? What are some simple answers for everyday people, so that they can know what they are doing is wrong or right?

Whew, I’m sorry, but just reading that article set my ranting off. Some things, when you see them, you just know don’t seem right, and this was one of them. On a completely different note, we had our first snow yesterday. Of course none of it is left on the ground, but it still snowed all day yesterday. Well, it snowed for a while and then rained and then snowed and then rained and then……well, you get the picture. I love snow, but I’m still not ready for winter to take its cold, icy grip over Minnesota yet. I’d much like to enjoy at least another few weeks of 40 and 50 degree weather, but we may not be that lucky.

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