Wednesday, May 14, 2003

OH... YEAH... SORRY, HAVE A T-SHIRT: We know that the RIAA has been throwing its weight around, bullying universities and companies over the existence of "illegal" files being shared on their servers. But how certain are the RIAA of their facts before they go steaming in? As their shit-eating apology to Penn State proves, they're really doing little more than leaping to assumptions. Penn State have a bloke called Usher working for them; they also had a totally legal mp3 sound file of some astonomers singing or something. The RIAA concluded that 'usher' and 'mp3' on the servers meant that Penn State was distributing Usher, the singer's copyrighted material, and sent a legal letter demanding the files go, lest the astronomy department feels their wrath and anger.
So, basically, they went steaming in with absolutely no evidence. And there was no evidence, because there was no wrong doing. Penn State, of course, pointed out the error, and the RIAA mumbled an apology, blamed it on a temp, and sent a tshirt by way of recompense.
This doesn't seem to be good enough to us - Penn will have had to spend time and money sorting out this problem, and a crappy tshirt hardly consititutes restitution (although we'd like to see the university stick it up on Ebay.) Even if there had been a transgression, we're still not entirely sure why the RIAA are being allowed to force colleges to waste time and resources on dealign with what are basically their own commercial interests. The organisation points out that this is the first error that's come to light after 10,000 compliance letters they've fired off, but how many colleges are going to be able to investigate the veracity of the RIAA's claims? Most - fearing a legal action in which they'd be easily out-funded by the combined might of the big five record labels - just cave in rather than try to get to the truth. Since now the RIAAS cheerfully admits that it doesn't bother to check the files they believe to be copyrighted actually are the tracks they believe them to be, maybe it should be politely suggested to them they now suspend the shooting-fish-in-a-virtual-barrell hunt altogether?

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