Record Industry Goes After Personal Use? The case against Jeffrey Howell


This is a story that has spread like wildfire. In this article from the Washington Post, Marc Fisher discusses how the RIAA has gone after Jeffrey Howell of Scottsdale AZ for converting the music CD’s that he legally purchased to MP3 files. Unfortunately, Marc Fisher did not get the story straight. According to the pleading and supplemental brief submitted to the court, the RIAA is suing because Howell put the MP3 files in the KAZAA share folder. It is really a shame that this and several other reporters have either gotten the story wrong or deliberately sensationalized it because now this story is focusing on the reporting instead of the ever more apparent strategy of the RIAA.

Wes Phillips of Stereophile has written what I consider to be a pretty accurate article about this and the last three paragraphs hit the nail squarely on the head. The RIAA is looking for nothing less than the elimination of the Fair Use principle of the copyright law. The Fair Use principle is what allows you to make copies of copyrighted material. However, the RIAA has its own ideas:

The RIAA’s own web site spells out what they understand is illegal copying of copyrighted material:

Examples of easy ways you could violate the law:

  • Somebody you don’t even know e-mails you a copy of a copyrighted song and then you turn around and e-mail copies to all of your friends.
  • You make an MP3 copy of a song because the CD you bought expressly permits you to do so. But then you put your MP3 copy on the Internet, using a file-sharing network, so that millions of other people can download it.
  • Even if you don’t illegally offer recordings to others, you join a file-sharing network and download unauthorized copies of all the copyrighted music you want for free from the computers of other network members.
  • In order to gain access to copyrighted music on the computers of other network members, you pay a fee to join a file-sharing network that isn’t authorized to distribute or make copies of copyrighted music. Then you download unauthorized copies of all the music you want.
  • You transfer copyrighted music using an instant messenging service.
  • You have a computer with a CD burner, which you use to burn copies of music you have downloaded onto writable CDs for all of your friends.

In his article, Wes writes:

Although it burst as “news” on December 29, there have been indications that the RIAA has been headed in this direction for some time. At the triennial review of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), conducted last January by the US Copyright Office, the record labels alleged that, although consumers could make back-up copies without much trouble, such use was “not specifically authorized [by the labels] and should not be mistaken for fair use.”

During the Jammie Thomas trial, Jennifer Pariser, head litigator for Sony BMG, said, “When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song,” adding that making personal copies was simply “a nice way of saying ‘steals just one copy.'”

Considering that the recording industry itself is slowly but surely moving into the Internet age and into a new business model, one has to wonder what is the RIAA doing?

Your turn to talk

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Selling the house or The Real Estate Bust!

We have been hearing it for a while now, the real estate bubble has burst and the prices are going down. Alongside this, the levels of foreclosures has skyrocketed and buyers who, 1 or 2 years ago would qualify for a mortgage, are finding themselves being denied. The real estate lender industry classifies potential borrowers as “prime” or “sub-prime.” “Prime” borrowers being the more desirable ones while “sub-prime” borrowers are more at the margin of their borrowing and repaying capacity.

During the heyday of the real estate boom, the lenders specializing in sub-prime loans went full steam ahead approving loans that looked very shaky indeed. Now, we all know that the laws of interest rates work inversely to the laws of gravity; what goes down must come back up. After several years of near zero prime interest rate, the inevitable happened and the rates began to climb.

As the rates climbed, the problems became more and more apparent as the level of foreclosures climbed to astronomical levels. Several of the more aggressive sub-prime lenders could not take the brunt of the waves of foreclosures and had to go into bankruptcy or out of business. At the same time, the market prices of both, residential as well as commercial real estate began sliding downwards adding fuel to an already volatile situation.

Now the situation is such that you are beginning to see even prime borrowers be squeezed because the market value of their real estate has dropped below the level of their mortgage. In other words, their mortgage loans are higher than the value of their real estate – a condition known as “being upside down” in your loan.

Many boomers took advantage of the very low interest rates and re-financed their homes to take the equity out and use it as they saw fit. If they opted for a fixed rate at 30 years, then they should not be in too bad a shape. However, there is a significant fraction of boomers that chose to get variable-rate mortgages. These mortgages offered a very low initial interest rate that would begin to vary after a set number of years.

Well, for most of those loans, the “set number of years” is up and the monthly payments are skyrocketing to the point where the borrower can no longer afford the payment. What makes it worse is that now the house is probably worth less than when he bought it; this means that, even if he or she were to qualify for a re-finance loan, in all probability the total amount of the new loan would not cover the amount of the previous mortgage.

The borrower is left with little option but to surrender the house to foreclosure and, maybe, even declare bankruptcy. For a boomer, this means that they have just lost the biggest investment of their life and the biggest single producer of wealth. For many, being able to take the equity out of the house is an integral part of their retirement plan and, with that gone, they may quite literally be staring at bare survival income for all of their retirement – assuming they can afford to retire.

What do you think?

Are you part of the real estate “squeeze”?
What are your plans for your home when you retire?
Are you going to be able to take the equity out of your home? 

What happened to privacy – Part II

Here are some additional thoughts concerning privacy, you can read the first part “What happened to privacy?” and you can check the blog from Elias Bizannes that inspired my own blogs “Define Privacy – what does it mean to you?

Part of the discussion concerning privacy is not so much what privacy is but, how is it achieved. Before the advent of the electronic age and before the Internet, penetrating the privacy of something or someone required a great deal of effort. Before, to do this, you had go to where the information was.

Back then, you had to be fairly motivated to want to go to where the repository of information was physically located. There was a geographical separation between you and the information you wanted. Once you arrived where the information was, you had to be willing to spend hours, days and even months wading through mounds of documents to get what you wanted.

A great deal of the privacy that we enjoyed was achieved by the sheer physical and mental effort it took to get to the relevant data. What the electronic age has done is to take all that away. There is no longer effort or sacrifice needed to get the information you are looking for.

Parallel to privacy concerns, another thing that is of concern is the veracity of the information you are acquiring or divulging. With the deluge of easy information has come the deluge of false information and outright dis-information. Where before, the repository of information in physical form, whether implicitly or explicitly, gave a measure of weight as to the veracity of the data, today that is being lost by leaps and bounds.

So the questions become, how do we protect ourselves and those whom we care about from invasion of privacy and false information? In an environment where information no longer has a physical shape or a geographical location, in an environment where the information may be completely false, how do we protect ourselves?

One of the things that we are going to have to review and revise is our attitude towards information. Because of how information was gathered and divulged in the past, we have tended to give it a lot of credibility. Consider the newspaper and newscasts of old; whatever Walter Cronkite said was the truth, whatever the New York Times said, was the truth.

We need to develop what I call a “healthy skepticism” towards information today. We need to develop and internalize some level of skepticism about how the information was gathered, by whom it was gathered and how it is being vetted or confirmed. Doing that will go a long way to curb the explosion of “trash” information that is floating all over cyberspace.

What happened to privacy? – Part I

With the advent of the Internet, one of the things that seems to be in the process of a very fundamental change is privacy. While you can find many sites that discuss the privacy issues in the Internet age, almost all of them miss a very important point. What is happening in this Internet age is a complete re-definition, from the ground up, of what privacy is.

Elias Bizannes has an interesting article in his web site,, where he gives a definition of privacy that is, at the same time, simple and practical. Here is his definition:

As a whole concept –

“Privacy is an individual’s right to determine what information they would like others to know about themselves; which people are permitted know that information; and the ability to determine when those people can access that information”.

As is usual in cases like these, the devil is in the details. Just how can you implement something like this on a global scale is beyond me. Just what would you be able to do if information that you do not want divulged is flooding the internet and it is coming from another country?

I’ve thought some more about this and you can read it on What happened to privacy – Part II.

What do you think?
What does privacy meant to you?
Do you agree with Elias’ definition?
What things do you do to protect your privacy? 

Korea – Those were the days !!

2nd Bn 71st ADA Batallion HQ - Camp Red Cloud, Korea

I entered the Army in 1973 and before the end of that year I was stationed in Camp Red Cloud, Korea (HHB 2/71 ADA). I spent the next three years there and, in all that time I could not give credit to the incredible tenacity and single-mindedness of purpose of the Korean people. At that time, Korea was still a developing country but, they were determined to move out of that status and into the status of “developed” country.

This picture of a “papa-san” hauling kindling on his back is just one of the many examples I saw there of how these people absolutely refused to be deterred. I worked on a hillside that overlooked the town of Uijongbu and, when I got there, I could count on my hands the amount of streetlights the town had. By the time I left in 1976, the town looked like a sea of lights at night.

Uijongbu is a town that is within 15 miles of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separates communist North Korea, controlled today by Kim Il Jong, from democratic South Korea. At the time I was stationed there, it was a town of about 30,000 people and there were a lot of agrarian areas; mostly rice paddies that were worked from sunup to sundown six days a week. For the most part, it did not look much different from the rice paddies you see in the movies.

The one thing that made it different was the sentry towers. I’m not talking about military towers; these were civilian towers in the middle of the rice paddy field for the purpose of watching over and protecting the crop from predators. During the whole cycle, from planting all the way to harvesting, there would always be someone on the tower at night, watching and guarding. I remember thinking that people that have such single-mindedness of purpose are formidable indeed.

I consider those three years like a college education in the university of life, complete with the college style parties, drinking and everything else. Even though at the time I thought I was in the 3rd pit of hell, I have to admit that it was during that time that I changed from a teenager (a boy) into a young man. There were lots of good times, lots of hard times and life changing decisions.

What do you think?
Where you in the military during the 70’s?
Did you go overseas?
What were your experiences?
What impressed you? 

In harm’s way – our children going off to war

“The War”… If you are a parent of one of the troopers (male or female) that are deployed, those two words can bring chills to your spine.

Forty years ago “The War” was Vietnam and this country increasingly treated the returning veterans with anger, disdain, and outright humiliation for having served their country. Although today the returning troops are treated with a lot of honor and respect, it does little good if every day, while they are in harm’s way, we continually yell “we’re failing, we’re failing!”

rgcombs posted two articles in his blog (Investigation Clears Marine and Snatching Defeat ) that got my blood boiling and gave rise to this blog.

I’m a baby boomer that is old enough to remember the Vietnam War. I served in the army shortly after the peace treaty was signed. I remember how the troops were treated; I saw and lived some of it myself. I remember thinking that I would not wish that kind of treatment to my worst enemy.

Back then, the North Vietnamese fought their war with their generals in charge and we fought our war with the politicians in charge. Our own politicians and their appointees, with the help of the media, maneuvered us right into defeat and retreat. Some of those very same politicians and appointees are at it again in this war against terror:

  1. John Conyers Democrat
  2. John Dingell Democrat
  3. Ted Kennedy Democrat
  4. Robert Byrd Democrat
  5. Daniel Inouye Democrat
  6. Theodore Stevens Republican – only one defending our military

Let’s not forget someone who was working in the circles of power in the early 70’s – Hillary Rodham.

Like many others, I have watched and listened with growing incredulity at just how much this war has been politicized. It has come to the point that I look around and I no longer recognize the country that I donned the uniform for. I have watched dumbfounded as the politicians of the Vietnam era that are in power and leadership today, are re-creating Vietnam.

I have a son in the Coast Guard and a nephew that recently finished his service in the National Guard. Even if I did not care about the war (which I do), I care about our kids. It is beyond the pale for anyone to put our kids in harm’s way and then do everything they can to embolden the enemy and, at the same time, deny our troops support and supplies.

Our kids deserve better than this! They are in a fight for our lives and the least we can do is give them our wholehearted support. POLITICS ENDS AT THE WATER’S EDGE!

What do you think?

Do you have a child in the service? Is he / she in a combat zone (Iraq or Afghanistan)? How do you feel about their service? How do you feel about Congress’ efforts to cut back their support and supplies? What do they tell you about the situation over there?