Can ISPs be sued for copyright infringement? Well, you can try.

By Amber Healy

It is unreasonable to try to hold internet service providers (ISPs) responsible for the content a subscriber uses or downloads — even if that content has been pirated or otherwise illegally obtained.

That’s the case being argued in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, where Windstream is fighting legal action against it from BMG Rights Management and Rightscorp, a separate company that executes BMG’s contracts.

BMG claims Windstream, an ISP with 1.1 million subscribers, is complicit in copyright infringement brought about by its customers by downloading pirated content, namely music owned by BMG. For the past five years, BMG, via Rightscorp, has been sending Windstream notices with settlement demands.

Windstream isn’t having it. In a motion filed June 27 in the Manhattan court, Windstream argues that “As a pipeline to the internet, Windstream does not monitor or otherwise control the manner in which its subscribers utilize their Windstream internet connection and does not initiate, control, select or modify the material or content transmitted by Windstream subscribers over Windstream’s network.” (See a pdf of the full complaint here.)

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Personal use is copyright infringement?

In the latest example of how the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has utterly failed to understand and adapt to the changing music landscape, RIAA has brought suit against a man for copying his legally purchased CDs to his personal computer for personal use.

In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.

The industry’s lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are “unauthorized copies” of copyrighted recordings.

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The future (of science fiction writing) ain’t what it used to be

By Martin Bosworth

Over the weekend there was an interesting flap in literary circles–the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) went insane with copyright infringement notices against Scribd.com, an online document-hosting service, for hosting content that SFWA vice-president Andrew Burt insisted was violating the rights of the authors. Unfortunately, as is often the case in these blunderbuss copyright-takedown attacks, a lot of completely legitimate work got taken down under threat of violating the Digital Millenium Copyright Act–including the works of Cory Doctorow, who openly supports free downloading of his work. You can read Cory’s angry response here.

Science-fiction author Jerry Pournelle fired back at Doctorow in a series of responses that basically boiled down to “You’re taking food out of my baby mamma’s my mouth!” The SFWA has agreed to stop its e-piracy campaign and review the list of works posted on Scribd in light of the complaints from Doctorow and other authors who were inadvertently harmed by the move.

There are two things I want to address about this. Continue reading

RIAA’s legal overreaching is being brought under control

Since RIAA decided to start their misguided anti-downloading crusade, they’ve relied on fear of overwhelming legal fees to get their targets to settle out of court for thousands of dollars. And they’ve used the easily abused Digital Millennium Copyright Act as a means to get preliminary rulings against anonymous targets that effectively extort people to settle before risking federal lawsuits.

But some people haven’t been willing to provide the information, and so they’ve gone to court to fight against the DMCA and RIAA’s legal overreaching. And today, we have two bits of news about people who have fought back. Continue reading