Here in the United States of America we hear phrases like "To Protect And Serve." This phrase may be seen on the side of some police vehicles to alert Americans that officers of the law are there to protect, and also be of service to society. Naturally there may be, at times, some grey areas. Other times, the United States police force steps over "the line" and does not follow what many (including the Laws of the land) say are appropriate. Recently, Yours Truly has experienced a few recent legal matters generally stemming from alleged motor vehicle infractions. You may be asking yourself what the hell does this have to do with audiophiles? Read on...
Legal Through Omission?
Why is it the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) employs ex-police officers to search for copyright violators at flea markets, record stores, etc.? Many speculate it is the way an officer of the law is trained to intimidate. During the recent event in a New Hampshire court i was taken aside into a private room within the courthouse and the State Prosecutor kept saying to me i would not see the judge that day. The officer who cited me for an allegedly moving violation (speeding) did not show up, the case was basically a done deal as i would have won since the witness (police officer) did not show up. The State prosecutor still kept claiming i would not see the judge after some discussion between us. When i pointed out that it violated my civil rights, he said to me he would talk to the court clerk and delay the trial. This was without my agreeing to said delay and without direct approval of the judge. Am sure you lawyer and lawyer types out there are familiar with the intimidation non-lawyer United State citizens may experience when going to court to defend their rights.
The RIAA seems to be walking a very thin line, seemingly acting as judge, jury, and prosecutor with their behavior against alleged copyright law violators. Their line of attack appear to be in hopes of controlling the public through bully tactics. Within the Enjoy the Music.com™ Industry News page on February 17th, 2004, we published:
Meanwhile the RIAA and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) have succeeded in enacting new warning labels by the United States of America's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The seal you see here may soon be appearing on tens of millions of digital music discs, digital video discs, video games, and computer software. "It is our hope that when consumers see the new FBI warning on the music they purchase, both physically and online, they will take the time to learn the dos and don'ts of copying and uploading to the Internet," said Brad Buckles, vice president of anti-piracy at the RIAA. "These are serious crimes with serious consequences -- including federal prosecution -- if the wrong choices are made about copying or uploading music without permission."
As a musician, i fully understand the need to insure being paid for my performances. For the record i have never used, nor downloaded software from KaZaA, Napster, or other popular peer-to-peer networks. My personal stance is against the illegal downloading of copyrighted music and will fully go into detail with those i meet about personal responsibility and the morals of said activities. Many have said to me they use these free-file sharing services to decide, and usually later buy, music. This is akin to stealing a car, "test driving" it for a few hundred miles, then going to the dealer and buying the same make/model of car.
Back In Court
Getting back to my recent court experience. Not only did the State prosecutor use false claims, when a later court date for another related alleged offence finally came about, the Police officer seemed to be less than truthful on the witness stand. When i pointed out a few facts by questioning the officer, he suddenly seemed to remember something concerning his training he, only moments later, did not disclose. At the end of the trial the judge said to me "You did a good job defending yourself." While i truly appreciate the judge's comments (and he appears to be a fair and just man), why does one need to defend their rights... and why do we need to work so hard at doing it?
Why? Because if we do not defend those rights provided to us, then we may as well have no rights at all. Furthermore, by not defending our rights it is the same as giving permission for others to conduct illegal operations again us. With all the recent RIAA actions, we can either sit back and let them steamroll over our rights, or we can defend them with our very last breath. Fortunately, there are people fighting back against the RIAA. Since the RIAA has never followed through in court on their accusations against a peer-to-peer file sharer, some of those recently accused are indeed fighting back! The reason it is good for the RIAA to settle all these cases out of court is that once a case is brought to judgment, a legal precedence is set for all future cases. Should the RIAA go to court, they risk losing the case and, therefore, have little legal stance in similar cases.
And just to stir the pot, part of the money we pay for a specific music software title goes towards the right to listen to it. i have yet to see a refund check or discount provided to me due to owning 15 copies of Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon nor have seen a check from the RIAA or any music label for my many copies of Miles Davis Kind Of Blue. Imagine all the money due to us for owning both a CD and LP of the same music title!
In the end we need to... No, it is our duty to defend our rights! The recent class action lawsuit due to compact disc music price fixing has been settled and many people have received their checks. Perhaps the next step is refund checks for our multiple copies of music. We can act now for monies due to us, or we can allow the corporate music labels to illegally abuse their rights due to our indolence.