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RIAA v. Verizon (Copyright Law)


A copyright is an intangible property right granted by federal statute to the author or the originator of the artistic production of a specified type, and is protected by the Copyright Act of 176. Copyrighted material falls into the categories of literary works, musical works, dramatic works, choreographed works, pictorial or graphic works, films and audiovisual works, and sound recordings. Copyright law does protect song lyrics and thus the song itself. If the lyrics are copied, sold, or distributed without the authorization of the owners of the copyright, copyright infringement has occurred. According to Section 10 of the Copyright Act of 176, original expression cannot be copyrighted but the particular way the expression is presented can be copyrighted. This would include both the lyrics of a song as well as the tune and the presentation. Although songs are publicly played on the radio and on television, stations must pay a royalty to the record company/artist to play those songs. This protects them from copyright infringement. In such cases as RIAA v. Verizon, the question of copyright infringement was never the issue. By trading the songs between users of such services as KaZaA, users violated the protective services provided by the copyrights of the music they shared. The issue in this case was whether or not the motion to subpoena the name of the person who was breaking the copyright law from Verizon was legal, whether or not that person had a right to privacy through his contract with Verizon, and whether or not the basis for the findings of the court were sound. With regards to the rights of the RIAA to subpoena the name from Verizon, the court found that under DMEA of 18, the RIAA could indeed subpoena Verizon. Having read the case and the necessary articles of the DMEA, there is little doubt in my mind that Verizon would have been discluded from the responsibilities set forth in the Act. With regards to the users right to privacy, one must be aware that any use of the Internet automatically makes personal information public. Many people believe that privacy and security software, etcetera, protects their private information, however it does not. Once a person enters information into a computer and sends it out across the Internet, regardless of whom the end recipient is, the information is available for anyone with a little computer savvy to see. Also, the user of Verizon’s services was not in any danger of economic downfall, persecution, or ridicule by maintaining his anonymity. Between these two factors, this person’s privacy is not protected. Finally, with regards to the findings of the court, I do believe that the plaintiff more than satisfied the conditions necessary to prove that Verizon had failed to comply with the laws as set forth under the DMEA and that Verizon’s client was not afforded the right to privacy under the First Amendment as had been claimed by the defense.


While I do not agree with the ideas set forth by the RIAA, I do agree with the elements of the law, which protect these ideas. It has been proven time and again that peer-to-peer file sharing has done more to help the recording industry that to hurt it and that overall profits of recording artists and companies were highest when file sharing was not under attack (as in the case of RIAA v. Napster). I believe that the RIAA would benefit from embracing the technological advances that make such things as file sharing possible rather than shooting themselves in the foot by fighting change.





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