Interesting Predicament

Maybe you’ve heard, the RIAA (the recording industry’s association) sues people it suspects of swapping licensed music. Though this raises the ire of those in the freewheeling computer hacker community, the people who own the music deserve to be compensated for their labor.

That being said, I’m no fan of the RIAA. They’ve been pretty draconian in their copyright enforcement. There are all sorts of mean spirited stories featuring obviously innocent people being threatened.

The RIAA, with access to legal counsel, has a pretty good advantage here. Even with huge settlement costs, paying the RIAA thousands of dollars is cheaper than fighting them – even if you expect to prevail!

I’ve always wondered how the music industry can press for these huge settlements when the actual value of the dowloaded music is under $1 a song? I guess I’m not the only one to have that thought.

From the “Recording Industry vs The People” website“:

In Atlantic v. Boggs, in Corpus Christi, Texas, where the defendant has interposed not just an affirmative defense challenging the constitutionality of the RIAA’s $750-per-song file damages theory, but interposed a counterclaim to that effect as well, thus prompting the RIAA to move to dismiss the counterclaim, the United States Department of Justice has requested, and the Court has granted, an extension of time in which to consider intervening in the case to defend the theory.

In other words, the original defendant, Boggs, says the RIAA is wrong to sue him, but even if they weren’t, their $750-per-song file damages theory has constitutional problems. $750 isn’t even close to the record company’s real damages.

This is one of many counterclaims made by Boggs’ attorneys, but the one I find the most fascinating. If the court finds the real monetary value of music must be used (what you’d pay on iTunes, for instance), will the RIAA be put in the position their defendants now face – litigation that’s a money loser even if you win?

What happens to the music industry in this scenario? Can they survive if the ability to legally enforce their rights is eviscerated?

I’m keeping an eye on this.

Rita On My Mind

I woke up late this morning to hear Hurricane Rita had been upgraded to 140 mph. This is a major hurricane.

My favorite observational tool is radar. You really get a feel for the structure of the storm with radar that you can’t get with satellite imagery, but Rita’s now too far from shore to get a meaningful radar return.

The satellite shows everything you don’t want to see. Rita remains symmetrical. There don’t seem to be any external forces distorting the shape, implying Rita is not being tugged or prodded by the outside environment. Further strengthening in the short term seems likely.

The Hurricane Center has shifted the projected landfall south. That’s farther away from Galveston and Houston… but still in the neighborhood.

There is an area between Houston and Corpus Christi that seems to be less densely populated. It’s not as desolate as the area closer to Brownsville. Still there is a nuclear plant there. There’s also a large industrial complex I can’t identify, except to say a railroad line runs right through it

We don’t have any say in this.

I don’t envy the people of Texas. A train is coming down the tracks – they can see it, but they can’t stop it. And, the memory of Katrina is so fresh in everyone’s mind.