The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is suing Usenet.com. And you may want to brace yourself, because it looks like they’re in the right for once. Not right in their Luddite efforts to undo technological progress by constant legal action, but in choosing an opponent stupid enough to deserve to lose.
If you don’t know about Usenet, congratulations on being under thirty or active enough to leave your computer from time to time. Usenet was an early form of forum and file sharing back in the days before HTTP opened up the web to regular humans. It has evolved into a more modern form but the idea is the same.
Whether a delivery mechanism is guilty of anything illegal it carries is a thorny issue. The post office is not held responsible for Anthrax scares or delivering AOL CDs, for example, and when people try to claim it is they are swiftly told “Sit down and stop wasting everyone’s time.”
But it gets a lot less thorny when Usenet.com charges $19 a month by promising “access to millions of mp3 files and also enables you to post your own files the same way and share them with the whole world” on their webpage, as reported by cnet. Even the most techno-ignorant judge is going to think it sounds a lot like making money from illegal trading – because that’s what it is.
Ridiculous defensive claims have been made, such as “not all MP3s are illegal so it’s okay”. Not all drugs are illegal either, but when a man in an alley offers drugs in return for money your first thought is not “Sweet, I’m going to score me some over-the-counter cold medicine!”
The fact is this ridiculous, indefensible boast made by a HTML-coding idiot unaware of the idea of “consequences” could hurt the community at large. While Usenet.com may deserve to be taught an expensive legal lesson in the art of “Don’t boast about doing illegal things, dumbass” the ruling can then be used to target other providers.
Providers who aren’t idiots doing illegal things.