Friday, October 05, 2007

Jury Jeers Peer- to- Peer

A US Jury has penalized music file-sharer Jammie Thomas. Jammie Thomas was said to have shared more than 1,700 songs. The court has ordered the woman to pay $222,000 in damages for illegally file-sharing music. The jury ordered Jammie Thomas, 32, from Minnesota, to pay for offering to share 24 specific songs online - a cost of $9,250 per song.

Record companies said she had illegally shared a total of 1,702 songs. Ms. Thomas was accused of using the program Kazaa to share copyrighted files. Ms Thomas, who denied the charges, was the first person accused of illegal file- sharing who decided to fight the case in court.

Each year, millions of households illegally share music files, and the music industry takes it as a serious threat to its revenue. Online users also share and copy movies in the same peer to peer (P2P), manner. There are programs available however that can maintain anonymity while sharing these copyrighted material. Essentially, it's a numbers' game for the labels they can only go after a fraction of those who share.

Internet Service Providers (ISPs), often disclose information about their customers' Internet use. Recently, Comcast, a cable company and an ISP, as well a phone service provider, installed software that hinder its customers from sharing files - the ability to seed files - whether they are copyrighted or fair use material.

About 26,000 lawsuits have been filed against alleged file-sharers, but most defendants settle privately by paying damages amounting to a few thousand dollars. This case presents more of a deterrent and scare tactic to warn and discourage people from sharing music, movies, pictures, etcetera.

Nevertheless, contesting the charge and losing will cost Jammie Thomas almost a quarter of a million dollars. Her lawyer, Brian Toder, told the Associated Press that Ms Thomas was reduced to tears by the verdict.
"This is a girl that lives from pay cheque to pay cheque, and now all of a sudden she could get a quarter of her pay cheque garnished for the rest of her life," he said.
Left: The Kazaa program, which allows Internet users to share music and other files.

The US record industry said people would understand the verdict. Richard Gabriel, a lawyer for the music companies, said the verdict was important. "This does send a message, I hope, that downloading and distributing our recordings is not okay," he told AP.
Our message is: we don't want to litigate - don't leave yourself exposed to litigation said John Kennedy, chief executive of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industries. He said no decision had yet been made about what the record companies would do, if anything, to pursue collecting the money from Ms Thomas.
John Kennedy, chief executive of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industries, which represents record labels, said they were "reluctant litigators." "We do everything possible to persuade people not to leave themselves exposed to litigation. We educate, we warn, we even try and settle before a case gets to court."

He said he hoped the fine would prove a deterrent to others. "Our message is: we don't want to litigate - don't leave yourself exposed to litigation," he added.
If the likes of the MPAA, RIAA and IFPI are to be believed, file-sharing is causing worldwide economic havoc, costing billions of dollars and creating unemployment. It is true that some people are feeling the P2P effect; they’re called ‘physical pirates’ or bootleg[ors] - online file-sharing has ruined their businesses. Pirated products on street corners and at flea markets are rare events in the digital age.

File sharing or downloading music and movie files, are as popular as ever. Despite the record and movie industries' attempts to clamp down on file sharing -- by filing about 30,000 lawsuits against users and initiating education campaigns -- the online activity is alive and well. The ready access to high-speed Internet connections first gave rise to MP3 swapping long before the original Napster burst onto the scene in 1999 and has continued to include more users. File sharing is a routine occurrence almost every Internet user has done some of it.

In MGM v. Grokster, EFF defended StreamCast Networks, the company behind the Morpheus peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing software, in an important case decided by the Supreme Court of the United States on June 23, 2005. Though the Court set aside the Ninth Circuit's ruling in favor of Streamcast, it also declined giving Hollywood what it truly wanted—a veto over technological innovation.

Twenty-eight of the world's largest entertainment companies brought the lawsuit against the makers of the Morpheus, Grokster, and KaZaA software products, aiming to set a precedent to use against other technology companies (P2P and otherwise).The case raised a fundamental question at the border between copyright and innovation: When should the distributor of a multi-purpose tool be held liable for the infringements that may be committed by end-users of the tool?

The Supreme Court's landmark decision in Sony Corporation of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc. (a.k.a. the "Sony Betamax ruling") found that a distributor cannot be held liable for users' infringement so long as the tool is capable of substantial non-infringing uses. This standard has served innovators, copyright industries, and the public for more than 20 years. Relying on this precedent, the Ninth Circuit ruled that the distributors of Grokster and Morpheus P2P file-sharing software cannot be held liable for users' copyright violations.

The Supreme Court set aside the Ninth Circuit ruling, but it refused to overturn the Betamax doctrine or to force technology companies to redesign multipurpose technologies. Hollywood's main objective thus went unfulfilled.

But rather than clarify the rules for technology innovators, the Supreme Court instead punted on the hard questions by crafting a new doctrine of copyright infringement liability called "inducement." In the wake of the ruling, innovators now have three uncertain copyright doctrines to worry about: inducement, contributory and vicarious infringement.

Industry analysts and various studies say tactics such as lawsuits against individuals and flooding networks with fake or corrupt files have slowed the growth of file sharing. Nevertheless, studies such as one released by UC Riverside researchers concluded that traffic on peer-to-peer networks "has never declined'' and continues to increase. (There are software available for free that can detect these fake files, or spoofs)

Results of another survey released by the Pew Internet & American Life Project said about 65 million people in the United States alone have downloaded music or video files. There are 210,575,287 Internet users in the United States as of May 2007, or 69.7% penetration into the population, Nielsen/NetRatings. There existed some 69,431,802 broadband subscribers as of July 2005 - 7,000 ISP (2002). That number is certain to be higher a couple of years later in 2007.

Executives with the Recording Industry Association of America acknowledge file sharing is still on the rise, but say they believe their campaign of lawsuits and public education has at least contained the problem.

Although the case adjudicated by the Supreme Court revolved around the entertainment industry's suits against the companies that distribute, Grokster, Kazaa and Morpheus, those are no longer the most popular file-sharing programs. They've been surpassed by new peer-to-peer protocols such as BitTorrent, BitLord and eDonkey. And there are new programs like Shareaza and Bearshare that crop up constantly and can quickly gain momentum.

Left: The Morpheus application screen- shot

Even old file-sharing stalwart LimeWire, which was first released on the Internet in November 2000, began a resurgence in May 2004 when it stripped adware and spyware from its program.

File sharers say Kazaa, distributed by Sharman Networks of Australia, fell out favor largely because of those adware and spyware programs, which clogged their computers. The entertainment industries added to that frustration by flooding the underlying FastTrack network with fake or corrupted files called spoofs. As for Grokster, which is distributed by a firm of the same name incorporated in Nevis, West Indies, very few people are using that software.

The third major player in the case, Morpheus, distributed by StreamCast Networks Inc. of Tennessee, has undergone various changes attempting to make a comeback. StreamCast released a new version of Morpheus that taps into several file-sharing platforms, including BitTorrent.

The rise of BitTorrent and eDonkey are particularly troubling for the movie industry because they are more proficient at moving pieces of large files through the Internet, which speeds the downloading of movies, TV programs and software.

Nevertheles, file-sharing has helped boost the number of popular TV programs like "24," Battlestar Galactica" and "Friends" appearing on file-sharing networks. And with digital video recording devices becoming more widespread, TV programs sometimes appear 30 minutes after they air but stripped of all commercials.

Despite the overwhelming number of file sharers -- BigChampagne counted 8.5 million simultaneous users online in February -- there are ways to track down each infringer. There's no way to stop piracy; you can't close it down, but media industries will continue to try and make people think twice before clicking that button. Be as it may, the threat of being sued may cause people to think twice before they download files, but the probability that they will be prosecuted is so low, it really doesn't deter people from doing it.

Some sharers do not use peer-to-peer programs to fill iPods or other hardware, instead they utilize person-to-person sharing. This includes sharing files through a closed computer network not accessible to the general Internet, which makes activity more difficult to monitor. Moreover, closed file-sharing networks that can be found on most college campuses are faster than public peer-to-peer networks. One can download with extreme speeds, even full movies take 10 minutes at most to download,

Sherman, the recording industry association president, said he believes his industry's future may depend on its ability to teach youth as early as possible that file sharing is wrong.
"We're not abandoning any part of any generation, but we understand our opportunity to talk to 12-year-olds is better than it is to talk to anybody already engaged in the practice," he said.

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