With the creation of any new technology and its introduction to
society, there follows a legal inertia. The courts for the most
part cannot know of any ill effects of such technologies until they
are unleashed into the hands of the public and are tested by consumers.
As more and more capabilities of a new technology are discovered,
it is likely that the innovation is pushing its legal limits more
and more. The field of innovation has thus become a battleground
between new technologies and intellectual property rights, which
in most cases boils down to the public interest versus the private
interest, pitting individuals and small businesses againstcorporate
giants such as the Recording Industry Association of America.
recent subpoenas filed by the RIAA against private file-sharing
individuals have taken on the form of a witch hunt; some individuals
might have to pay the RIAA anywhere from $750 to $150,000 per each
infringement for taking part in something they either thought was
legal or were unaware they were partaking in. Marilyn Rodell, for
example, remarked that her mother, who is being sued by the RIAA,
"paid $29.95 for Kazaa and assumed she was using a legitimate
service. How was she supposed to know the difference between Kazaa
and something like Pressplay where you pay $9.95 a month?"
RIAA is pointing fingers at file-sharers and blaming them for the
decrease in CD sales. File-sharers are enraged at the RIAA's invasive
techniques for finding infringers
and identifying them through their IP addresses, as well as Kazaa
for not alerting them that some of the files they are downloading
may be illegal. In fact, the RIAA's evidence-collection process
has been found to be inconsistent; on two separate accounts the
RIAA has misidentified two consumers by their IP addresses. Sixty-five
year-old Sarah Ward, a Mac user, was accused of downloading copyrighted
materials via Kazaa, which is only available to PC users, as was
Ross Plank, a software engineer, who does not have and has never
had Kazaa on his computer.
are flying all over the place in courts,editorials, blogs, chats,
etc.;, college students are panicking and "hiding" their
goods by not sharing; and attorneys are licking their chops at this
fresh kill laying in front of them. I'm just a few years premature
to cash in on this marvel in intellectual property law
can pick at each different side's argument until you start running
in circles, but when you reach the bottom of the barrel, you'll
only find one thing in common with these arguments: total utter
confusion. Consumers generally do not read the user agreement forms
that pop up in front of them when downloading or installing software;
it has become an immediate reaction to click the "I accept"
box and click the "Next" button.
if you choose not to accept, you cannot use the software. You either
play by the rules of the distributor or you don't play at all:;
no contract negotiations. As such, very few consumers are aware
of Kazaa's user agreement that holds Kazaa unaccountable for any
illegal files being shared on their system.
problem arises, however, when millions of consumers begin file-sharing,
ignoring these agreement forms, and adopting their file-sharing
practices as a normative part of their lives. Some cannot even see
how something such as the belated Napster or Kazaa could possibly
be illegal. They tend to equate the peer-to-peer file-sharing that
takes place on these networks to sharing a CD with a friend, which
is perfectly legal under copyright law. The recording industry,
on the other hand, likens such practices to walking into BestBuy
and pocketing CDs without paying for them. When big business begins
to label consumers' normative practices as deviance, consumers'
norms are shaken from their foundations, there arises a backlash
against corporate America, and confusion settles in.
course, the alternative to logging onto Kazaa to obtain Mp3s is
to actually buy the CDs, but it is generally the case that consumers
are interested in only a few selections from the CD. Suchalternatives
as Streamwaves.com allows you to "download" songs for
$0.99 a piece, or pay a monthly or yearly flat fee to use the service.
Your selections, however, are maintained through and kept on the
Streamwaves site, making it impossible to save the music on your
PC or burn them. The selection of such music services is usually
limited as well; smaller labels are usually not well represented.
Have no fear Kazaa loyalists, in addition to networks such as Gnutella
and LimeWire, a new peer-to-peer file sharing network alternative,
NeoModus' Direct Connect is making its way onto consumers' PCs.
NeoModus is free to download and allows you to directly connect
to, search within, and download from numerous users depending on
the types of files you wish to acquire. As of yet, the new network
has not made its way onto the RIAA's hitlist.
is to blame? What can be done? I find the legal institution to blame.
There has to be a better way of making the public more informed
of the legal repercussions of their actions; the end-user agreements
have become more like traps for the uneducated consumer. Furthermore,
a certain amount of technical know-how is required for consumers
to make informed decisions in their Internet/digital activities.
legal inertia that we often get caught up in tends to chastise certain
actions after they have become the norm, and thus consumers must
also keep up to date in legal decisions. The solution? If you consider
intellectual property law to be similar to a sinking ship, as John
Perry Barlow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation does, then you
might lean towards a total reformation of the legal institution
in regards to copyright law. Or maybe we can appoint Ms. Cleo to
the World Intellectual Property Association so she may inform us
of all pending innovations and legal problems they might bring with