• United States

Stand up and be counted

Sep 22, 20033 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsIntellectual Property

The arguments people are using to justify breaking copyright laws to download music bear a lot in common with the excuses used to explain other illegal activity – such as driving in the carpool lane (“I needed to pass the idiot who wouldn’t pull over and let me by”), parking in the handicapped spot (“I needed to get a latté and didn’t have time to park a block away”), or releasing a computer worm (Jeffrey Lee Parson, who was arrested for spreading the Blaster Worm, said he shouldn’t be charged because he didn’t actually write the worm, only modified it). It’s human nature to try to justify the illegal and/or immoral acts we do.

Ah, the music pirates say, but look at what the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has done – it has sued a 71-year-old man and a 12-year-old girl! The 71-year-old man was sued because his visiting grandchildren used his account to infringe copyrights. People are aghast that he’s being sued for something someone else did. The 12-year-old girl, though, did steal intellectual property – she was, in fact, a dealer! If the 12-year-old girl had knocked over a convenience store or if the 71-year-old man’s grandchildren ran a crack house in his back room, then there’d be no outcry over punishing them.

When the RIAA tried to hold Kazaa and others liable for the copyright infringement, they were properly thrown out of court – there’s nothing illegal in providing a file-sharing service. There are many useful, legal benefits to doing so. The RIAA was told to go after the actual lawbreakers. So they did. That’s commendable. These aren’t casual users that are being sued, but people who offered thousands of songs for illegal download – the heavy dealers of the illegal music business.

Many in the general press have lambasted the RIAA for “suing their customers” and called it a marketing nightmare. But that 71-year-old grandfather and the 12-year-old girl on public assistance aren’t buying CDs at the music store, so they aren’t the RIAA’s customers.

At a time when our networks are slowly grinding to a halt under the weight of illegal worms and viruses, and when illegally traded music and video files are preventing legitimate use of the ‘Net, its time for all of us to stand up and be counted in support of legal use of our networks and devices.

Tip of the Week

Remember that it’s the account holder who is being sued by the RIAA. On your enterprise network, it’s the corporation that owns the account, and you who are responsible for its activities. When the clerk down the hall offers music for download, it could be you who gets sued.