Press Release

Public Knowledge Responds to RIAA’s plans to sue P2P File Traders

September 7, 2004

For immediate release

Washington, D.C. | Public Knowledge has long acknowledged the potential threat that large scale unauthorized file trading of music may pose, and has encouraged the recording industry to protect its copyrights by pursuing strategically targeted legal action against actual infringers. Public Knowledge also firmly believes that simply bringing lawsuits against large scale individual infringers will not solve the industry's problems. The recent announcement of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to pursue “what could ultimately be thousands of lawsuits” against peer-to-peer file (P2P) traders therefore strikes us as an over-investment in legal action, possibly to the detriment of consumers and musicians alike.

We believe other avenues, which require neither new legislation nor technology mandates, are open and largely underutilized. First, it is crucial that the recording industry develop new business models that treat the low cost, ubiquity, and speed of the Internet as an opportunity, not a threat. Although the recent offerings of services such as Pressplay and MusicNow represent an important step in this direction, these services further entrench the recording industry's unpopular pricing models while depriving consumers of many of the rights that they expect to have with recorded music. Apple's iTunes Music Store strikes us as a bigger step in the right direction.

Music lovers have spoken — they are no longer willing to pay $18 for a CD to get two songs that they want and ten that they don't. They want their music online — and Public Knowledge believes that those services that provide easy access to a full music catalogue at a reasonable price and with full flexibility will thrive. We encourage the music companies to continue exploring new models and new potential solutions to delivery of music in the digital age.

Second, Public Knowledge supports the recording industry's use of limited, non-invasive self-help measures, such as introducing spoofed files into P2P networks.

Third, the industry should take more meaningful steps to clarify consumers' rights and responsibilities, rather than conducting a one-note “education” campaign.

We believe the recording industry can take all of these approaches now, without further legislation or the imposition of technology mandates.

Finally, Public Knowledge urges individuals offering a large number of infringing musical recordings over P2P networks to note that the law is not on their side. In addition to being able to monitor activity on P2P networks, copyright owners can compel ISPs to divulge the identities of their subscribers. In short, a copyright owner can find out who you are and what you are doing, and, if you are engaged in large-scale file trading of others' copyrighted works, it is unlikely that a court will rule in your favor.