O Tenenbaum

Underscoring that the RIAA’s new anti-piracy initiative co-exists with its pending lawsuits,  a judge in Rhode Island is considering whether to order the parents of Joel Tenenbaum to turn over their home computer for RIAA inspection.   The RIAA alleges that Tenenbaum used the family computer to download seven copyright protected songs and wants to copy its hard drive to prove its infringement claim.  Tenenbaum, a BU graduate student, has turned his opposition to the RIAA suit into a mini cause celebre, attracting the legal representation of Harvard Law School’s Charlie Nesson, a cause celebre in his own right.  Nesson is opposing the RIAA’s quest for the Tenenbaum home computer on grounds of privacy and relevance and challenging the RIAA’s right to file these suits.  Now that the RIAA has decided not to file more suits like this is it worth taking this one to the mattresses against Charlie Nesson and a cadre of HLS law students?

Music Industry Updates

The music industry generated some news while was hobbling.

The RIAA announced that it is dropping its campaign of mass lawsuits.  The RIAA has filed copyright infringement lawsuits against over 35,000 people in the past five years for allegedly pirating copyrighted songs, a fact most college students know well.   Most suits were settled for between $3,000-$5,000, a significant sum for many of those sued but I would be surprised if the RIAA netted much money for its members after the cost of filing and administering the lawsuits.  The suits may have deterred some individuals from pirating copyrighted music–e.g., a lawyer-turned-college-professor with financial assets and a professional reputation to protect–but did not put a dent in the amount of piracy.  The RIAA’s new strategy is to enlist the support of ISPs who agree to tighten the screws on users the RIAA identifies as distributors of copyright-protected files.  Cooperating ISPs will forward RIAA-generated cease-and-desist letters to their offending users.  If a targeted continues to make copyrighted songs available for downloading “they will get one or two more emails, perhaps accompanied by slower service from the provider. Finally, the ISP may cut off their access altogether.” (Sarah McBride and Ethan Smith, “Music Industry to Abandon Mass Suits,”  The Wall Street Journal, 19-Dec-08)  The RIAA is not dropping pending lawsuits and may continue to sue high-volume individual file-sharers.  The WSJ’s law blog speculates the RIAA’s problematic lawsuit against Jammie Thomas was central to its change of strategy.  That’s the case in which the jury awarded the RIAA over $220,000 in damages for Thomas’s piracy, and the trial judge decided a few months later than his instructions to the jury were wrong.  He had told the jury that making copyright-protected songs available in a shared folder constituted copyright infringement.  He reconsidered his instructions after other court rulings undermined the “making available” theory, holding that the RIAA must prove  copyright protected songs were actually copied to establish copyright infringement.

Involving ISPs in an enforcement role is potentially quite effective, if enough ISPs join the effort.  A former student articulated this very concept in 2002.  After graduation he developed monitoring software and a business plan to implement the concept and wooed the RIAA and ISPs to its merits, without success.  He was a half-decade ahead of his time. Alert readers will note that the RIAA’s ISP initiative targets distributors, not downloaders; it appears that free-riders–those who take without giving–will continue to fly under RIAA radar.

Yesterday Apple announced two significant changes in the iTunes st0re, multi-tier pricing and DRM-free music.  The record labels have wanted iTunes to drop the flat $.99/song price model in favor of pricing that reflects a song’s popularity.  Now iTunes will sell songs for $.69, $.99, or $1.29; in exchange the record labels agreed that songs sold on iTunes will be free of digital rights management limits on copying and use on multiple computers.  These changes bring  iTunes in line with the Amazon’s MP3 store.

Surgery + 17

I am–

  • walking inside with one crutch most of the time
  • pain-free unless I do something I’m not supposed to do, which I’ve not done for many days.  The muscles around the incision are weak and stiff, but don’t truly hurt.  I remain amazed by the lack of pain despite the invasive nature of the surgery.
  • doing rudimentary physical therapy, designed to fire glutes, hamstrings, abductors, adductors, and groin muscles.  I’m weeks away from picking up my old biking/elliptical/swimming regimen
  • a bit stir-crazy.  Judy and I went to CostCo today and I realized it was my longest and farthest trip from home since I entered the hospital on 12/19.  CostCo is much bigger on crutches than it is on foot.
  • happily anticipating the start of classes on 1/15.  It would be rough if classes started tomorrow but in eleven days I should be ready to go.  On a crutch or cane, maybe, but ready to go.