Washington Post vs RIAA Radio Debate Postmortem

Crave.CNET.com has a blow-by-blow summary of an on-air debate between the Washington Post's Marc Fisher and Cary Sherman, a representative of the RIAA. The takeaway seems to be that Fisher wheedled out too much from the brief filed by the RIAA (as noted by Techdirt's Mike Masnick) but that the RIAA still won't promise that ripping CDs is a legal right.

From the Crave.CNET.com story:

"They go on to equivocate and say, 'Well, usually it won't raise concerns if you go ahead and transfer legally obtained music to your computer,'" Fisher said during the debate, "but they won't go all the way and say that it's a legal right."

Here was an opportunity for Sherman to declare once and for all that copying CDs for personal use is lawful. He stopped short of that, saying that copyright law is too complex to make such sweeping statements. He did state that there is one full-proof way of discovering the RIAA's policy on personal use: check the record.

"Not a single (legal) case has ever been brought (by the RIAA against someone for copying music for personal use)," Sherman said. "Not a single claim has ever been made."

I read the brief myself. The issue seems to be in the way one could parse the "and" in the statement. "Once Defendant converted Plaintiffs' recording into the compressed .mp3 format and they are in his shared folder, they are no longer the authorized copies distributed by Plaintiffs." (Emphasis mine.) I can understand why people would question the motivation of an RIAA lawyer to specifically point out the ripping process, but I still think the "and" very clearly indicates it was the sharing, not the ripping that was the issue.

RIAA shreds Washington Post story in debate [Crave.CNET.com]

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  1. I felt the same as you when I read it, in that the problem the recording industry rep highlighted was the sharing of the files. However, like so many others I think that if there was no concern about personal-use ripping to mp3 format, it would not have been mentioned at all. Someone in the RIAA is trying to get this “ripping is always illegal” thought bubbling so they can later get it legislatively so.

  2. The RIAA could have cleared this right up by declaring that they consider CD ripping is legal. The problem is they don’t. That’s why RIAA president Cary Sherman never said CD ripping is legal in the interview in which he supposedly shreds Marc Fisher for suggesting that the RIAA considers CD ripping illegal. Instead, Sherman carefully invoked vague statements like “that is not our [current] position,” without stating what their current position actually is. Such statements leave them a hole big enough to drive 20,000 plus litigation factory lawsuits through and able to declare ripping to be illegal at any time.

    I think you should double check what Sherman actually said, not what he carefully made you think he said. (Well, that and the whole “we gave false testimony under oath and I knew about it, told the press (*cough*really*cough*) but not the court or opposing council”–all that kind of gives the lie to his claims of forthrightness…)

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