Music Copyright

Online Piracy and Electronic Theft

The Internet offers music lovers virtually limitless possibilities. Digital technology brings music to a wider public, affords niche artists access to their audiences, makes our vast musical heritage widely available, and distributes old, new and unusual music at affordable prices. Unfortunately, the Internet also gives music pirates a new weapon.

Within the Internet culture of unlicensed use, theft of intellectual property is rampant. The music business and its artists are the biggest victims, and ultimately consumers suffer also. Unauthorized Internet music archive sites (using multiple formats, such as .wav files, or MP3 files) provide illegal sound recordings online to anyone with a personal computer. Music can be downloaded and played indefinitely, without authorization of or compensation to the artists. Other music pirates use the Internet to peddle illegal CDs.

Because of the nature of the theft, the damage is difficult to calculate but not hard to envision. Millions of dollars are at stake. Many individuals see nothing wrong with downloading an occasional song or even an entire CD off the Internet, despite the fact it is illegal under recently enacted federal legislation.

RIAA's goal is to make the Internet a legitimate marketplace for sound recordings, and that can't happen unless artist and record company rights are respected. If you want to post what they have created, you need to purchase a license to do so.

The challenge is to prevent copyright infringement online without interfering with legitimate uses of recorded music or limiting the opportunities offered by digital technology and the Internet. RIAA is pursuing a multi-faceted approach, combining education, innovation, and enforcement.

What the RIAA is doing about Piracy

One of the most important jobs of the RIAA is to investigate the illegal production and distribution of sound recordings. It is estimated that such illegal product costs the music industry more than 300 million dollars a year domestically. The RIAA pursues a global policy comprised of education, enforcement, developing technologies, and when necessary, litigation.

The RIAA assists authorities in identifying music pirates and shutting down their operations. In piracy cases involving physical product, the RIAA works with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors' offices to coordinate seizures of pirated product. The RIAA-assisted raids have closed down hundreds of U.S. and overseas manufacturing and distributing operations, and significantly reduced illegal CD and cassette vending around the country.

In cyberspace, the RIAA's team of Internet Specialists, with the assistance of a 24-hour automated webcrawler, helps to stop Internet sites that make illegal recordings available.

Based on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's (DMCA) expedited subpoena provision, the RIAA sends out information subpoenas as part of an effort to track and shut down repeat offenders and to deter to those hiding behind the perceived anonymity of the Internet. Information subpoenas require the Internet Service Provider (ISP) providing access to or hosting a particular site to provide contact information for the site operator. Once the site operator is identified, the RIAA will take steps to prevent repeat infringement. Such steps range from a warning e-mail to litigation against the site operator. The RIAA then uses that information to send notice to the site operator that the site must be removed. Finally, the RIAA requires the individual to pay an amount designated to help defray the costs of the subpoena process.

Every year, by assisting in criminal trials and initiating civil litigation, RIAA wins hundreds of guilty pleas from, or convictions of, music pirates, plus scores of settlements and judgments. RIAA is also pioneering copyright enforcement on the Internet. Since 1998, RIAA has settled five lawsuits against Internet music pirates that violated federal copyright laws by reproducing and distributing copyrighted sound recordings.

Although RIAA vigorously pursues those intentionally breaking the law, it prefers to educate all citizens so they know what is legal and illegal. New technologies have spawned new laws, so this effort is more important than ever.

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