On KDKA Radio Today

I got up at the crack of down dawn this morning (Monday, June 22) to do a quick interview with KDKA radio hosts Larry Richert and John Shumway on the case of Jammie Thomas, the woman in Minnesota who was targeted by the recording industry for illegal file sharing and who was on the business end of a $1.9 million jury verdict last week.

The interesting aspect of the case and the verdict (if it stands) is the amazing amount of the damage award -- something that even the recording industry itself is somewhat embarrassed about. (The defendant uploaded roughly two albums' worth of copyrighted content -- about $30 worth -- and even given the jury's conclusion that she acted "willfully," surely no extra-special deterrent is needed to ensure that she doesn't do it again.)

On the radio, though, the question was simply how to avoid getting yourself into such a mess. That's easy: The recording industry has largely stopped suing individual file sharers, so the likelihood of getting sued for "ordinary" use of free P2P services is pretty small. If you want to eliminate even that small risk, then simply avoid using free P2P services altogether, and ensure that if you do -- download only. Don't offer your file directory to the network for others to copy from you.

There is little doubt that the copyright system has reached a consensus that "ordinary" use of those services to upload and download music, film, and computer software without permission of the copyright owners is copyright infringement, and while you're not going to get sued if you do it, whether you download or upload, eventually you may find yourself getting cut off by your ISP (including your school or employer). Enterprises that put free file sharing tools out on the Net will still come under withering fire, both here and abroad.

At least, that's the case unless and until hell freezes over Congress passes a rational copyright law.

Of course, almost none of that made the air; being a good electronic media guest means short-and-pithy answers -- lively entertainment, not informative content. I'm told that the segment will be repeated today. If you find a link (I haven't), let me know.

[Link added Tuesday, June 23]


3 Responses to "On KDKA Radio Today"

EdHeath said... 6/22/2009 3:23 PM

The crack of down sounds early. I prefer the crack of up myself.

Patrick Wagstrom said... 6/22/2009 3:37 PM

Just a quick correction about what the RIAA is doing. The RIAA is still filing new cases against individuals. In particular, they're moving forward with "John Doe" cases. In April, Ars Technica did a good writeup on the issue.

Mike Madison said... 6/22/2009 4:14 PM

@Ed - It might have been the crack of "up" rather than the crack of "bottom"; my typing and proofreading skills are obviously inversely proportioned to the time of day! The earlier it is, the worse they are. (Of course, the relationship is not linear -- note that the later it is, the worse they are, too.)

@Patrick -- Noted; thanks. No one has yet accused the RIAA of being rational, or consistent, or fair-minded. The fact that critics are left to parse the new meaning(s) of "new" is itself evidence that the debate over wise copyright policy is being fought on the wrong turf.

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