Tuesday, April 18, 2006

RIAA and the End of the Internet...

P2Pnet is running an interesting story about a development in RIAA file sharing litigation in the New York federal district court. The most astonishing claim of the story is that one of the RIAA's legal arguments is ANY shared file violates copyright law, regardless of whether it was legally obtained. This could cause a potential problem because just about everything on the internet exists in this manner, networks connected through links to make content available. I doubt the average reader of the Grey Area would consider themselves in violation of copyright law. The reductio ad absurdum argument gets better when carried to its legal conclusion. If open directories (basically the entire internet) are violations of copyright law, then copyright law its self is a violation of the First Amendment, and is unconstitutional as a general principle. Interestingly, the RIAA no longer has a legal copyright claim against any P2P file sharer. Why would this violate the First Amendment? Construing contract law in this manner would effectively end the use of the internet for free communication. The Grey Area, for example, could not be used to express this very opinion. This blatant infringement on a generally unregulated area of discourse and commerce violates the principles of free speech by preventing bloggers from presenting their point of view. It could possibly even be construed to violate the Free Press clause of the First Amendment because it would prevent news outlets like The New York Times from disseminating information.

While this exercise in legal logic is a farfetched, its demonstrates exactly how dangerous the arguments presented by the RIAA really are. I think it would be interesting to see the whole of copyright law invalidated under First Amendment concerns, as the law is presented to the court by the RIAA because it demonstrates how short-sighted the goals of the RIAA truly are. Regardless, for all the interesting developments on the battle for intellectual property ownership, check out The Recording Industry v. The People.

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