riaa vs. google?

April 21, 2003



i'm so glad i found this article:

Recently, the RIAA sued four college students for alleged copyright violations, including contributory infringement. The contributory infringement claims are based on assertions that the students ran search engines that can be used to find infringing files.

Jacques Distler asks this question: When will they sue Google? Certain parts of the RIAA's complaint against the students could be reused with little or no modification in a suit against Google.

according to some of the links in distler's post (and zack rosen's analysis) the case looks to be pretty cut-and-dry. the students didn't build a peer-based sharing app, they didn't target mp3s on the network (or any other specific type of content) -- they just built a search engine (which is specifically allowed by dmca) that happened to target smb shares. so why bring so much attention to this specific instance? distler is right, intimidation. and not only intimidation of college students, mind you. intimidation of any "small fish" they can find. nothing new.

go one step further than your googles or your altavistas... any self-respecting enterprise search functionality includes not just http-based content but also databases, file systems, network shares, etc. also, file-types aren't just limited to html or word docs, they include rich media content such as mp3s, mpeg, flash, etc. this is a big part of how and why enterprise integration actually works! is the aggregator at fault if a user places copyrighted music material somewhere and it shows up in the results? how about it someone uses a copyrighted song in their powerpoint presentation? of course not, those decisions to "publish" or use illegal material rest with the user.

and what about operating systems like os x and windows that provide search functionality? they search locally on a system, across the network on mounted shares, and on the web! is apple to blame if a school or business hosts an mp3 library and opens it up to users or (via their hacked wireless network) to the world? of course not. the list of "potential lawsuit victims" is long, for sure. i agree that copyright protection is important, of course, but come on! the riaa needs to decide which battles to pick and which to leave behind...

thank you prof felten (and mr. distler), both for these articles as well as for all the others that attempt to give some insight into the wack-ass mind of the riaa. spend some time on these sites and you'll be enlightened. guaranteed.