The RIAA is a record industry trade group best known for their duties in handing out Gold, Platinum and Diamond awards for milestones in album sales. However, recently they have been at the forefront of the record industry attempt to crack down on online music pirating.
One site they believed was infringing on copyrights was the MP3Board. They issued cease and decease letters to the company that operates the site. Their final letter dated May 25th warned the company that they had until June 2nd to remove the objectionable links or face legal action. MP3board did not remove the links and instead filed suit against the RIAA on that day.
"We're mindful of the notion that there are infringing files out there, but there are non-infringing ones as well." said MP3board attorney Ira Rothken. "The RIAA should go after the sites that are actually doing the infringing, not a site like ours. This is a pattern of abuse by the RIAA against my client."
In the suit filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (San Jose Division), MP3board is seeking an injunction to end the RIAA's attempt to shut down the site. They are also asking the judge to rule on MP3boards legal requirements for monitoring its site's search content for illegal content. Additionally, MP3board is seeking the award of monetary damages that have resulted from the RIAA's interference in its business.
The significance of this lawsuit can not be overstated. If the Judge rules against MP3board on the hyperlinking to illegal copyrighted material issue, that could leave companies like Altavista, Hotbot, and other search engines open to lawsuits from groups like the RIAA because their sites also feature links to illegal material.
MP3board feels that is it unreasonable to request that they monitor their link database to insure that they contain no links to infringing files. Their attorney, Ira Rothken, says that if web sites and search engines were forced to do that then "it would paralyze the Internet". He further stated that, "So someone has to step in to say that linking services can't be infringing on copyright just for hyperlinking." He compared the RIAA claims of infringement to software companies holding the Phone Company liable because they list companies that sell pirated software in their phone directories.
On June 6th President and CEO of the RIAA, Hilary Rosen, issued a statement concerning the lawsuit. "For several months we've been attempting to resolve our issues with MP3Board.com without resort to the courts. " said Rosen. "It's not surprising that MP3Board.com would seek this action given that we have already contacted them about infringement on their site and given that we had identified Friday-the very day they filed suit-as the deadline for bringing their site into compliance with the law."
"I guess they thought that the best defense is a good offense. But legal tactics like these have been tried before and don't work-it won't make their site any less infringing." she said "MP3Board.com is a substantial web site that contains organized and egregious links to thousands of illegal sound recordings. "
She concluded that the RIAA is confident that the law will find that MP3board's actions do constitute copyright infringement. We will have to wait and see how the court rules on this case. It could have a heavy impact on automated Internet search services in the future.