June 12, 2003

Jesse Jordan, RIAA, and direct copyright infringement

In a reply to my entry concerning Jesse Jordan being sued by RIAA, Edward Felten  commented and discussed the elephant in the room:

But let's not forget the plaintiffs' other claim, that Jordan was a direct infringer, based on his alleged redistribution of hundreds of copyrighted works from his own computer. If proven, this claim would have cost Jordan much more than $12,000 in damages. And it seems reasonable to assume that the direct infringement claim was not baseless, especially given that Jordan has not denied it.

Note I've now had some correspondence with him about this, and he does in fact deny that direct infringement allegation.

That direct infringement claim was much on my mind, as I dug through the RIAA complaint documents. It's a very touchy matter to ask someone if they are in fact guilty, especially in a high-profile case. But not following the crowd wins me few friends :-(. I felt very uncomfortable suggesting that someone targeted by the RIAA might, in fact, be guilty. And that feeling was much intensified by my sympathies for the underdogs. There's definitely an opportunity here for some journalist to write a "contrarian" article ("Debunking RIAA myths"?), but it's not for me.

I was bothered by the thought: When is it reasonable to assume a claim is not baseless? The mere fact that it was made, didn't seem sufficient. I know in my life, I've had people lie through their teeth about me, on the abstract rational basis that whatever mud sticks, whatever doubts are raised, even the smallest amount, is to the attacker's benefit. It's not as if a judge is going to laugh the RIAA out of court for making a claim of direct infringement in a copyright case! It would seem an obvious allegation to make here, even if completely false. On the other hand, direct infringement is not exactly an absurd claim either. As pointed out, many people (especially college students), do formally violate copyright law on a regular basis.

So ultimately, I couldn't find a compelling analytical argument either for or against the direct infringement claim. Perhaps someone else would like to ask the other "RIAA 4" defendants if they're actually guilty :-)

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight , legal | on June 12, 2003 11:58 PM (Infothought permalink) | Followups
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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