By Richard Menta 6/05/03
Time has run out for Verizon and the still anonymous file traders who use its online services. The company will be forced to capitulate to the Recording Industry Association of America and reveal the identities of these users, whom the RIAA will either threaten or sue for copyright infringement.
Hopefully, these individuals will just receive a warning; this way they at least have the chance to say they will never do it again and perhaps avoid an expensive legal ordeal. Though, after all of the effort expended to make Verizon divulge their customers' identities, I worry that the music industry will still pursue legal action in many cases. Past experience shows that the music lobby likes to parade their tormentors through the village square in order to make examples of them. Somehow, this is supposed to serve as a deterrent to all those who should attempt to do what, at last count, 40 million Americans continue to do today -- trade files.
Apple's iTunes service has proven that there is a market for digital music sales. The record companies have long denied that this would be possible as long as people traded music online for free. Now, with no effort or investment into Apple's venture other than their permission, the record companies are pulling in 50-60 cents per track. Apple has sold several million tracks to date, not a bad revenue deal.
Since it has become evident that there is money to be made, I don't see the need to continue this crusade against individual users of P2P programs. Unless you think Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign actually achieved its goal of significantly curbing drug use, I don't see how anyone could believe that this tactic will succeed for the RIAA. It has had no effect so far.
Verizon has already notified four of its customers that they are the undisclosed targets of the RIAA's subpoenas. I have my suspicions that the RIAA already knows their identities and have for a while (so far all of the individuals charged or being sued are college men between the ages of 18 and 21, a group likely to draw less sympathy than a 15 year old girl in a ponytail). We will keep you updated if the names are released.
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