The Digital Age is a confusing time for legislators who hardly figured out their own generation of technology. Unfortunately, luddites are making laws written by special interest groups who disagree with the majority of the public. For example, Senator Orrin Hatch suggested that software pirates have their computer automatically destroyed. (I can’t imagine that one being exploited.) Turns out his official website is using code illegally—kaboom! Meanwhile, Judge Kozinski who ruled that making songs available is the same thing as distributing them illegally had mp3s and innappropriate pictures available on his personal machine—“that’ll be $250,000 please” signed the RIAA.
Sadly, two great online services are being shut down because of this archaic legislation. Pandora, an online radio that helps you find new artists is folding under the costs of royalties that benefit only the record companies. And Muxtape, a site that let people create mix tapes is also being brought down.
On a more positive note: A recent courtcase ended with the defendant agreeing to pay about $750 per song she pirated. $750 is significantly lower than the $250,000 possible and lower than what others than average. The penalty is still unconstitutional. Ignorant offenders are being hit with fines that are over 1000 times more expensive than the item stolen—a song costs $0.99 from iTunes.
For more great information, I recommend the Recording Industry vs. The People blog. It is a great resource for anyone who finds themselves under fire from the RIAA. The collection of materials on the RIAA’s bully tactics is infuriating while the open letter to colleges is a refreshing ray of hope. While I was still an undergrad, UT did an excellent job of covering students who may or may not have been infringing (IP and MAC addresses can be faked, malware can be setup to pirate without your consent, etc). In the past couple years the RIAA has stepped up the enforcement and colleges are a prime target. Most universities are handing over documents and throwing their students under the bus.