April 29, 2003

RIAA warns file-sharers

Filed under: open — Wendy @ 2:14 pm

The week after its first major loss in the peer-to-peer wars, the RIAA sent instant-message warnings to hundreds of thousands of users of the Grokster and KaZaA networks:

It appears that you are offering copyrighted music to others from your computer. …When you break the law, you risk legal penalties. There is a simple way to avoid that risk: DON’T STEAL MUSIC, either by offering it to others to copy or downloading it on a ‘file-sharing’ system like this. When you offer music on these systems, you are not anonymous and you can easily be identified.

While its labels of “theft” mischaracterize the acitivty, the warning about lack of anonymity is unfortunately far too true. Users of peer-to-peer networks are identified by IP address (’internet protocol’, not ‘intellectual property’), and the recording industry has been using subpoenas to prod Internet service providers to reveal the user identities connected to those IP addresses.

At one point in the Verizon lawsuit, the RIAA had claimed that it needed subpoena-derived identifying information simply to contact the users, but since the software itself permits them to send messages, that claim rings hollow. They want to pick and choose their targets for suit, to comb for The Hacker Quarterly of file-sharing, before judicial review and opportunity for the users to oppose discovery.

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