updated 01:35 pm EDT, Wed October 3, 2007
Sony BMG on Piracy
Record label Sony BMG's current stance on piracy would label even typical fair use practices as illegal, according to testimony from one of the company's legal experts in an anti-piracy lawsuit. Litigation head Jennifer Pariser remarked during the case that any instance of copying songs from one medium to another was considered stealing, regardless of whether the listener had already bought the music or a common understanding of fair use, which is not enshrined in law but has been established as a legal precedent.
"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song," Pariser said. Arguing that a copy is just for personal use is only "a nice way of saying 'steals just one copy'," she added.
The definition of theft could be critical to the suit, which has Sony BMG's sub-label Capitol Records accusing defendant Jammie Thomas of hurting company profits by sharing and downloading pirated songs through the KaZaA peer-to-peer service. Successfully reasoning against fair use would refute arguments from Thomas' defense that a user can legally download songs they already own.
While proceedings for the suit have only recently begun, it is widely believed that an outcome in either direction will become the foundation for future policies on fair use and file sharing for music. Pariser's interpretation would make unpaid downloading and CD ripping illegal by themselves, potentially criminalizing millions of users.
Thomas' complaint is the first to reach the trial phase, with previous cases either resulting in a settlement or being dropped after music labels failed to show in court or meet criteria to begin a trial.