HITS Daily Double
"When you break the law, you risk legal penalties. There is a simple way to avoid that risk: DON'T STEAL MUSIC, either by offering it to others to copy or downloading it on a ‘file-sharing’ system like this."
——from an IM being sent to P2P users


RIAA Links Up with AFM, Christian Music Trade Assn. and Gospel Music Assn. for Anti-Piracy Education Effort
Despite having been stung by a recent Federal Court decision asserting that the operators of peer-to-peer networks (Grokster and Morpheus in this case) aren’t accountable for users’ infringement of copyright, the RIAA is stepping up its crusade against illicit file-sharing.

OK, maybe we should avoid words like "crusade." Especially since the industry trade organization’s partners in its latest endeavor include the Christian Music Trade Assn. and the Gospel Music Assn. Oh, the American Federation of Musicians is in, too. Together, these entities hope to counter unauthorized online distribution of music with an innovative education campaign.

In tandem with the partners listed above, the RIAA is announcing today the launch of a new offensive whereby P2P users sharing large numbers of files without permission will receive a warning in the form of an instant message. The text of the IM is as follows:

It appears that you are offering copyrighted music to others from your computer. Distributing or downloading copyrighted music on the Internet without permission from the copyright owner is ILLEGAL. It hurts songwriters who create and musicians who perform the music you love, and all the other people who bring you music.

When you break the law, you risk legal penalties. There is a simple way to avoid that risk: DON'T STEAL MUSIC, either by offering it to others to copy or downloading it on a ‘file-sharing’ system like this.

When you offer music on these systems, you are not anonymous and you can easily be identified. You also may have unlocked and exposed your computer and your private files to anyone on the Internet. Don't take these chances. Disable the share feature or uninstall your ‘file-sharing’ software. For more information on how, go to http://www.musicunited.net/5_takeoff.html.

This warning comes from artists, songwriters, musicians, music publishers, record labels and hundreds of thousands of people who work at creating and distributing the music you enjoy. We are unable to receive direct replies to this message. For more information about this Copyright Warning, go to www.musicunited.net."

"The music industry's instant message campaign is designed to inform people that distributing or downloading copyrighted music on peer-to-peer networks is illegal; that they are not anonymous when they do it; and that they risk legal penalties if they engage in this illegal activity," RIAA prez Cary Sherman declared. "Unfortunately, many users of systems like KaZaA and Grokster may be under the mistaken impression that anything they do on these systems is now legal. In fact, every court decision regarding peer-to-peer networks has confirmed that distributing or downloading copyrighted music without permission of the copyright owner is ILLEGAL. And that's the message we
want to get across to users of these systems."

Of course, by urging people to dispense with file-sharing applications altogether, the organizations dismiss the assertion that P2P has "non-infringing uses," as Federal Judge Stephen Wilson suggested in his decision (see story, 4/25). After all, many indie bands encourage the swapping of their music, finding that it helps them sell tickets and build a following. But never mind about that.

The idea that heavy users of KaZaA or Grokster would have some kind of copyright-related moment of clarity after receiving such a message may strike some observers as absurd—and the IM campaign has some folks in a lather.

"This is a death rattle," scoffs Grokster President Wayne Rosso. "It’s a fear tactic and it’s silly. They’ve just declared war on their own customers." Rosso says that Grokster—which, he asserts, "publicly tells people copyright infringement is wrong"—will tell users how to block the instant messages or turn off the IM function on the app.

Even so, AFM President Thomas F. Lee thinks the campaign is a swell idea.

"Music fans dont want to hurt musicians and they dont want to steal," reads a statement from Lee. "Fans who share music without permission on peer-to-peer networks feel that
doing so is harmless, innocent and safe. They are wrong on all three counts. Their actions hurt thousands of musicians who need fans to pay for music if they are to survive. Their activity is illegal—stealing, in fact. And, illegal file sharing exposes them to the risk of being sued for copyright infringement.

"The copyright warning messages being sent to individuals are designed to educate them about these three realities," Lee adds. "It is critically important for artists to bring this message home to all those fans who don’t yet understand: distributing or downloading copyrighted music without permission injures artists more than corporations, breaks the law and may result in penalties against those who do it. The AFM urges all music fans to support artists by using only legal means to distribute and obtain music, and to find out more by going to www.musicunited.net."

And yes, if you won’t listen to musicians—like, say, legendary songwriter Lamont Dozier, who participated in a 4/29 press call on the education effort with Sherman—maybe you’ll listen to Jesus.

OK, maybe not Jesus himself (you know: the give-your-stuff-to-the-poor, rich-folk-won’t-get-into-heaven guy), but some folks who have a strong professional relationship with Him.

John W. Styll, head of both the CMTA and the GMA, gave the IM initiative his, um, blessing. "In the ongoing battle to educate the minds and hearts of consumers about the illegal and unethical nature of music downloading, we think this new effort to use modern technology will speak directly and effectively to consumers," Styll testified. "We know that fans of Christian and gospel music are among those who download music from the Internet, and we hope they will respond to the messages positively."

Allah, Buddha, Vishnu, Zoroaster and Zeus couldn’t be reached for comment.