Illegal Downloading on the Wane

What Everyone Is Talking About Today

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The Recording Industry Association of America's strategy of scaring the bejesus out of college kids with lawsuits may be a public relations nightmare, but some numbers suggest it might also be working.
Cassi Hunt
Cassi Hunt Credit: screwpirates.com

Illegal downloading of online content has gone down 17%, according to the latest eMarketer report, which cites a study conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the Business Software Alliance. The BSA, a group "dedicated to promoting a safe and legal digital world," counts mostly software and hardware companies as members.

Interestingly, the study found that a fear of an RIAA lawsuit is less of a deterrent than the fear of inadvertently downloading spyware or a virus. But don't try telling that to Cassi Hunt, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology student who's turned her "foray into the RIAA lawsuit machine" into a national platform from which she's criticizing the RIAA's recent practices. She has her own Web site, screwpirates.com, a story on MTV.com and, she says, she'll be featured in an upcoming issue of Rolling Stone.

Ms. Hunt was targeted in the round of lawsuits against users of file-sharing program i2hub. Upon receiving the lawsuit notice from the group, Ms. Hunt found she owed $750 for each of the 272 songs she had shared over i2hub. But the RIAA's "settlement negotiation hotline" said she could settle for $3,750. When she explained she didn't have $3,750, the RIAA suggested she quit her physics studies to get a job.

Ms. Hunt isn't angry she was targeted; her ire comes from the fact that she believes music piracy laws make it too easy for RIAA to attack p2p users without fear of having to go through the justice system to ensure that the process is constitutional. "The settlement amounts make a fair trial impossible -- even if I were to win in court, I'd be paying at least $3750 in legal fees anyway," she writes. "The target group for these suits are people who don't have the assets or the experience to fight these cases. Because if they chose someone able to go through the levels of the justice system, [there's] no way this type of extortion would be found constitutional."

Of course, she should take heart that she may be in good company. Boingboing.net linked yesterday to a rather random video of President George Bush recounting what's on his iPod -- Beach Boys, Beatles, Alan Jackson, Dan MacLean -- er, make that Don MacLean. BoingBoing points out since no Beatles songs have been licensed for the iTunes Music Store yet, these must have come from ripped CDs -- an action the RIAA has said is illegal.
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