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RIAA not suing over CD ripping, still kinda being jerks about it

Nilay Patel
12.30.07
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Okay, so we've done some digging into the RIAA's lawsuit against Jeffery Howell, in which the industry is claiming that ripped MP3s are "unauthorized copies," and it turns out that Jeffery isn't actually being sued for ripping CDs, like the Washington Post and several other sources have reported, but for plain old illegal downloading. As we're all unfortunately aware, that's pretty standard stuff; the big change from previous downloading cases is the RIAA's newfound aggressiveness in calling MP3s ripped from legally owned CDs "unauthorized copies" -- something it's been doing quietly for a while, but now it looks like the gloves are off. While there's a pretty good argument for the legality of ripping under the market factor of fair use, it's never actually been ruled as such by a judge -- so paradoxically, the RIAA might be shooting itself in the foot here, because a judge wouldn't ever rule on it unless they argue that it's illegal. Looks like someone may end up being too clever for their own good, eh?

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