The RIAA is The Recording Industry of America Association, or to put it into easy to understand terms, they are the folks suing everyone (and likely their own grandmothers) for illegal music downloading on the internet. At the last count they had filed more than 20,000 suits. They are not particularly careful about who the recipient of the suit is, they may be dead, they may be computer unsavy, they may be children, but the suits just keep coming.

The weapon of choice that the RIAA has been using is a rather interesting piece of software known as MediaSentry. How it works exactly is a closely guarded secret, but most insiders seem to agree that the ploy is to set up a bogus server that pretends to host well known music albums. The music files are bogus, and when the hapless downloader clicks on a tune, they are now subject to a RIAA law suit.

Their legal scheme is at least grey, they contact the ISP involved, and using more Huff and Puff than the wolf getting at the piggies obtain the subscribers name and address. Step two is to send a letter indicated their intent to sue, and the sum of the judgment could well be hundreds of thousands of dollars. But, because they are nice guys they will settle for $3000 out of court. I wonder how many BMW’s have been bought by the RIAA attorneys, and exactly how much of the money has been returned to the artists whose work was pirated?

The good news is that we may soon get a few answers, and it is my guess that the RIAA and MediaSentry will be running for the hills. While I am sure I am in the majority in not supporting music piracy. I am also sure that I am in the majority in expressing contempt with the methods being used by the RIAA.

So far MediaSentry has avoided being grilled in a court setting, however several states have already declared their techniques illegal, the Massachusetts State police have already banned the company, and it’s been accused of operating without a license in Oregon, Florida, Texas and New York, and now Michigan is getting in on the act.

The really interesting case is UMG v Lindor, Ray Beckerman the attorney involved is well known for his interest in the RIAA tactics, and seems to have a real chance to get them to fess up in this case.

About the last thing The RIAA and certainly MediaSentry want to admit to their techniques, which I would guess breaks more laws than the person downloading a track.

The RIAA exists only because it is funded by the big labels, but the big labels seem to be getting fed up with the bad publicity. Once MediaSentry is involved in the discovery phase, I will bet they go out of business. Just like the company that told Sony that they had the perfect DRM, when was the last time you heard of First4Internet (their webpage is blank right now). I requested an interview and I am still waiting. Rumor has it the CEO is now cleaning office toilets for a living, and lives behind a dumpster.

I don’t do predictions, but if I did, The RIAA will be done by the end of the year, the labels are pissed at them, they have done nothing to fix the ‘pirate music’ issue. All they have done is cause high level problems, many profile bands have opted to embrace the ‘P2P’ rather than rely on a bunch of lawyers wearing $2000 outfits!

This is a news story that is worth watching.

Simon Barrett

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