This Is Amnesty? . . .

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The RIAA has announced an amnesty program. From the link:

“According to sources, the RIAA will not pursue legal action if infringers delete all unauthorized music files from their computers, destroy all copies (including CD-Rs) and promise not to upload such material in the future. Each infringing household member will have to send a completed, notarized amnesty form to the RIAA, with a copy of a photo ID. Those who renege on their promise will be subject to charges of willful copyright infringement (our emphasis).

It’s not much of an amnesty program when someone the RIAA doesn’t know about are supposed to take actions that would prevent them from ever knowing about you in the future.

But that’s not the important point, and every P2Per websites I’ve seen completely missed it.

The important point is the term “willful copyright infringement.” If you have “willful” copyright infringement, criminal charges can be made against you. That means jail.

If you actually did what the RIAA suggested, complete with notarized statements and all, and they caught you at it again, you’ve given them a ready-made criminal case tied with a bow proving “willfulness” which they can then hand over to the authorities to try and get you a stay at Club Fed.

This is too much even for me.

While I don’t think P2Pers have been exactly hammering the RIAA site looking for the amnesty form :), actually doing this would come close to qualifying you for a Darwin Award (non-lethal class, anyway).

If you want to come clean, and fly right, just get rid of the stuff and sin no more.

Update 9/11/03: Since this article was written, much has been written about RIAA’s amnestry not being a complete guarantee against other parties possibly suing you or worse.

Somebody is even the affidavit” target=”_top”>suing the RIAA over it.

These arguments actually doesn’t hold much water.

Being Sued For Past Offences A concern has been expressed that this amnesty would not prevent the record companies from suing those who ‘fessed up. People are being left with the impression that all a record company has to do is get a copy of the affidavit, and they have a ready-made suit with a signed confession.

That is nonsense.

Take a look at the affidavit and you’ll see that there is no requirement to list any songs. Nor does it ask for online screennames.

In order to have a case of copyright infringement, it has to infringe something specific. If somebody says, “I used to murder people,” that does zilch for a murder case. You have to be convicted of murdering somebody.

Nor does it even help in tracking you. The affidavit doesn’t ask for your screen name; it asks for your real name.

The only way this affidavit could possibly hurt you in a civil case is if a music company had independently scanned you and was early in the process of getting ready to sue you at the time when you signed the affidavit. The affidavit could be used as a piece of contributory evidence to back up those hard drive scans, but that’s all it would be good for, and it probably would be superfluous.

Being Put In Jail For Past Offences This affidavit does nothing for that, either. For copyright infringement to be a criminal offense, it has to be “willful.”

What willfulness means is that you knew (or almost certainly ought to have known due to your background/profession) this was illegal, but did it regardless. What

Willfulness is very hard to prove in court, and it would be practically impossible to prove against the average P2Pers without some help.

This affidavit is meant to provide that help, but it only helps in future cases. If I filled this out and signed it today, all it means is that as of September 11, 2003, I’m acknowledging in writing that this is illegal and pledging that I’m not going to do it any more.

This piece of paper would be a very good thing for the FBI to have if they caught me downloading tomorrow, or any time thereafter. It doesn’t do them any good for something I downloaded before September 11.

Being Put In Jail For Future Offenses It most certainly opens the door for that, and the RIAA makes no bones about it. They say it flat-out in the affidavit. That’s why we wrote the original article in the first place.

Conclusion

We’re not saying you ought to apply for this amnesty. The original article said that you shouldn’t, and why you shouldn’t. What we’re saying is that the reasons being given by others why you shouldn’t hold little water.

It still means, “Don’t do it.”

Ed

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