September 08, 2003

RIAA "Clean Slate" Amnesty - fishing expedition for targeting lawsuits?

As the RIAA starts lawsuits, their "Clean Slate" amnesty program is obviously receiving much attention. Just what sort of trouble can one expect from admitting to copyright infringements? (the RIAA can't stop lawsuits from other copyright owners such as the MPAA, nor the government, etc. - see e.g. postings at bIPlog and Freedom To Tinker)

The RIAA's description says:

OUR PRIVACY POLICY Information provided on the Clean Slate Program Affidavit will be used solely in connection with conducting and enforcing the Clean Slate Program. Information will not be used for marketing, promotional or public relations purposes. Information will not be made public or given to third parties, including individual copyright owners, except if necessary to enforce a participant's violation of the pledges set forth in the Affidavit or otherwise required by law.

But those who followed the story of TrustE know that privacy polices are slippery things. And besides, who is going to sue the RIAA if they wiggle on the meaning of "conducting and enforcing"?

Now, this certainly could be a way of entrapping people, given that "Clean Slate" affidavit signers are then liable for wilful infringement.

But large-scale infringers aren't going to rely on such a promised "amnesty". Perhaps the idea is that it's a way to get leads from scared "little fish" to go after "big fish" ("... tell us who your connection is, boyo, and you can walk ...").

That is, if the RIAA gets a large collection of applications from one particular location, that would seem to indicate there's good lawsuit-hunting in that area, with plenty of other fish who can be fried. The amnesty-seekers then act as quasi-informants. Perhaps explicit informants, if they're then interrogated to "verify" details of what they've submitted ("We're not prosecuting you, we're just checking up to make sure you told the truth, there's severe penalties if you lied ...")

And the most immediate use of the affidavits is as PR-fodder, i.e., "X pirates have admitted to crimes against copyright. The problem is worse than anyone thought!". This segues well into future prosecutions.

Quasi-Valenti-ism: "This amnesty is to the RIAA as UN Security Resolutions were to Saddam Hussein"

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight , legal | on September 08, 2003 11:13 PM (Infothought permalink) | Followups
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

Subscribe with Bloglines      Subscribe in NewsGator Online  Google Reader or Homepage