Friday, January 21, 2005

for those paying attention..

Maybe you occasionally stick your musical nose above the radar, and worry about the legality of how you get and share music? Maybe you don't worry about it. Either way, the RIAA seems pretty random and ridiculous in its targets. Suing pre-teens for downloading. Most of this seems pretty US-based. But there are suits against some folks outside the US, based on their violation of US (c) laws (that are not enforced in the sued-person's country). Weird as this seems, the Australian Project Gutenberg case is one example.

It seems to me that lawsuits from the RIAA or mega-corporations against individuals in the third world/the Global South may not happen too often, but someone correct me if I'm wrong. It's obvious from what I can see that local folks and peeps in the global south are still doing their thing(s), which often relates little to US or internationally supported concepts of music ownership and control. (true for many subcultures here as well). The top-down enforcement of TRIPS/ US-style IP law is offensive, but also possibly ineffective, at least with respect to music? Anyone want to testify here?

The TRIPS agreement theoretically allows the WTO to bludgeon countries more effectively than private lawsuits, anyway. Membership is contingent on signing on to teh TRIPs agreement, which makes each country responsible for enforcing IP laws in locally, regardless of their usefulness or relation to local practices and needs. Still, the World Intellectual Property Organization has begun to unbend, a little, so maybe there's hope.

Another casualty of the anti peer-to-peer legal movement is privacy. I'd not be happy to find that my ISP can be forced to give up your information to governments or parties in a legal dispute, or held liable for the activities of its clients. Of course ISPs can block or ban anything they choose, anyway.

Luckily, for now that aspect is being defended by the Eighth Circuit, at least for your actual name. However, the RIAA is now suing "John Does" by IP address. you can go to the EFF's Database of subpoenas to see if your IP address was subpoena'ed by the RIAA.

But as for the legality of peer to peer file sharing in general, the Supreme Court of the US is about to take it on: March 29, 2005 is the date for the oral argument in MGM v. Grokster for March 29, 2005. The EFF is defending StreamCast Networks, the company behind the Morpheus peer-to-peer (P2P) software, against 28 of the world's largest entertainment companies. More information on their site about the case, and the issues involved.

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