RIAA Chief Responds To Criticisms of E-PARASITE Act

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Yesterday, we covered comments from the RIAA on how it believes courts have weakened the DMCA to the point of uselessness and why the organization supports the highly controversial E-PARASITE Act. It's not the first time we've covered the controversial legislation, but the leader of the RIAA, Cary Sherman, has weighed in with his own personal views and rebuttal. It's unusual for the head of the RIAA to directly confront such criticism, and it's worth revisiting the topic to evaluate his response.

Sherman's argument rests on two premises. First,
it should be unacceptable to any of us involved in legitimate commerce online that a rogue Web site based outside of the United States -- but hawking U.S. products or copyrighted works -- can currently escape U.S. laws. That's not an issue that a better business model could alleviate. It's Web sites brazenly posing as legitimate commercial entities for the sole purpose of duping consumers, often in countries with lax copyright regimes like the Ukraine or China...

Secondly, the answer simply can't be to "do nothing." Throwing up our hands or saying "we care about copyright theft but will offer no constructive ideas" is not an acceptable outcome or answer.
The second point is absolutely valid. The first is accurate insomuch as it correctly identifies a problem, but it implies a solution that isn't actually legal. If the RIAA identifies a counterfeit CD factory in China, it can't send in the US Army (or even the Oakland PD) to handle the problem. One of the problems with the E-PARASITE act is that it allows for a degree of cowboy diplomacy in cyberspace that would flatly violate the sovereign territory of any physical nation.

Sherman goes on to claim that the law as written "affords even more legal safeguards to overseas-based sites than the constitutional process in place under current law for domestic sites. It places considerable burdens on potential enforcement, and includes specific parameters to determine whether a site qualifies as one "dedicated to the theft of U.S. property" and stipulates necessary steps to be undertaken before any taking action to block access or funding."

The steps, we must note, are entirely one-sided. ISPs, payment providers, advertising services, search engines served with notification of infringement are given five days to strip the offending property of various links, payments, and associated functions. Period. There's no automatic grace period, no provision for a counter claim, and no simple way for a site accused of infringement to establish its innocence. The five day window is laughable considering the time it would take to retain a lawyer, begin the process of responding to a claim, and advocate for oneself in a domestic case. The idea that a foreign national can easily do so in this time frame is a joke.

The greater problem, however, is that Sherman continues to view this issue as one that must compel ISPs to act as police, clearly indicated when he states "Importantly, the bill allows ISPs to determine the best way to target foreign rogue sites." In point of fact, the multi-faceted nature of the assault is part of what makes it impossible to stop. An alleged infringer doesn't simply have to defend himself in court, he has to communicate the results of that defense to all of the companies he once associated with and convince them to hand over his property and restore his privileges.

Carey concludes, "we want to stimulate further legitimate online growth by making sure that thieves operating offshore can't tilt the playing field against legal services. It is ironic sometimes that we are faulted for protecting our rights. But surely there is a place for reasoned conversation, for rational discourse, for genuine efforts to understand each other."

We agree. If the RIAA and MPAA want to stimulate genuine conversation, we'd recommend they start by dropping all attempts to co-opt ISPs and search engines as policemen. Even if we grant that Sherman has no interests other than protecting the legitimate business interests of the RIAA's constituents, there's no guarantee that future leaders will feel the same way. The potential for censorship created when neutral service providers are turned into quasi-military cyberspace police is too enormous to be allowed to exist.

Rather than attempting to strong-arm the political process, the RIAA/MPAA should aggressively license their products for legal streaming and distribution at prices and with features that the market is willing to bear. Once upon a time, the music industry claimed it was impossible to compete with 'free' until iTunes proved otherwise. Destroying Napster, Kazaa, and Limewire didn't stop file sharing. Destroying foreign websites won't stop file sharing, either. Sherman claims to want to see digital distribution succeed, but his policies continue to rely on failed models and draconian measures. If E-PARASITE passes, it'll hand corporations veto power of a sort China only wishes it possessed. No, that doesn't mean the RIAA would abuse its abilities in the same way -- but it's simply not worth the risk.
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"The potential for censorship created when neutral service providers are turned into quasi-military cyberspace police is too enormous to be allowed to exist."

Beautifully worded and right on point.

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AKwyn replied on Tue, Nov 8 2011 4:46 PM

I already stated my comments on this a thread before but, I guess I'll add to the proceedings... Your right Joel in the fact that the RIAA is unjustified in pushing that law but what you suggested about licensing at acceptable prices could work. I mean so far the RIAA /MPAA is working to protect a dieing model and they're doing nothing to help out the new model out of irrational fears that there might be a copyright violation here and there...

1. Mostly every person who buy this stuff has no intention to violate a copyright by copying.

2. If the person does blatantly break the copyright by posting it on the internet then something should be done about it.

3. There are groups out there that release movies that are in theaters and high quality rips of DVD's, they should be trying to target those groups and limit the effective distribution of those movies.

4. They should not try to restrict our usage of the media, I mean we're not criminals; none of us even know how to do that stuff they mentioned...

Again, E-PARASITE is bad news, very, very bad news. I'd be happy if congress vetos it, it does noting to help the public and it does everything to protect the RIAA/MPAA.


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The MAFIA is at it again... I really hope this law gets squashed. The internet is supposed to be a neutral place for all countries and putting the power in the U.S. hands just opens huge can of worms.

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jonation replied on Tue, Nov 8 2011 10:53 PM

but omega, we own everything... its all ours. manifest destiny.

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Given the manner in which organisations like the RIAA - and the MPAA - take advantage of both artists and the public, they should know everything that is worth knowing about parasites. But alas, these organisations are not alone in promoting legislation that attempts to extend US jurisdiction - which they control through their lobbyists and generous «campaign contributions» to the whole world. As revealed by Wikileaks, they certainly have managed to exercise undue influence on the legislative and judicial process here in Sweden....


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rapid1 replied on Wed, Nov 9 2011 10:10 AM

The thing is this law will not be legal in said markets most likely, so they/he will try to get it passed, and then when they do will use it in an entirely nefarious way in markets that are not what he is stating his case against. I imagine they would use it to sell the information to make money, and then for ridiculous court cases (read extremism) like the housewife who had like 80 or 180 songs and go fined 4 million dollars or something. I am not saying the music industry should not be paid (most definitely the musicians and artists) these worms in general won't give anything or considerably less than they win to the musicians who work they supposedly "Protect".

This is a sham in the opposite way such as the woman who spilled her coffee from Mcdonalds and sued them because she got burned. It is coffee is is made by running very hot water over ground coffee so that the coffee is then extracted as a hot beverage.

If I buy my music and I put it on my computer, my laptop, and my smartphone and my wife's computer and smartphone will I be sued by RIAA for over use of the product it could happen and falls within there purview of the situation. These suckers are doing exactly what the frivolous lawsuit clowns are doing to our legal system in the US or thereby helping them make a ridicule of it.

Of course Apple and all the Patent litigation firms do the same and it is treated like normal business as well on a daily basis. I am not saying owning music or even actions used to manipulate a smartphone are completely wrong, I a just saying all of this crap is ridiculous. Then because it is all treated the same and as a dire issue it cheapens the action within itself.

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Manduh replied on Wed, Nov 9 2011 10:58 AM

Another chapter in the never ending book titled, "The U.S.: An Endless Pursuit of World Domination"

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Joel H replied on Wed, Nov 9 2011 11:07 AM

More like "the pursuit of certain untrustworthy corporations." The RIAA is *not* the US.

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HLand replied on Thu, Nov 10 2011 12:13 AM

RIAA = Music Nazi's

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maruawe replied on Thu, Nov 10 2011 1:42 PM

The RIAA has for the last couple of years have been trying to get others to do the job that they are suppose to do to

stop illegal downloading. So this is no surprise at all from these JERKS.

If the isp has to do the work then the RIAA should be made to pay them for their time and work. Say like $50,000

per song removed or $200,000 for a whole album.. -- Fairs fair --

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RSmith replied on Sat, Dec 3 2011 3:18 AM

Sounds like Sherman played old-school pc games too much, cuz he has the "all your base are belong to us" mentality.  FAIL.

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