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Senator Hatch Is At It Again

History of RIAA Legal Controversy


Senator Orrin G. Hatch a Republican representing the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)...I mean the state of Utah has introduced yet another bill that aims to provide the RIAA and MPAA with draconian legal power to act against technology.

I don't have the investigative experience or resources of a Michael Moore or Greg Palast or I would start doing some digging, but it seems to me that Hatch must be making more money from the RIAA and the MPAA than he does from the Utah taxpayers. He certainly seems to take alleged RIAA violations very "personally" and has battled repeatedly to implement sweeping legislation to censor certain technologies. Maybe he has a brother-in-law that is CEO of Sony or something.

I guess Senator Hatch didn't get around to reading my comments in the article Counter-Hacking: The Sequel in which I said "Senator Hatch can do us all a favor by focusing on what matters to this country and his constituents rather than what gets him the biggest donations from the RIAA and MPAA for his next presidential bid. He would also be doing himself and the country a huge favor if he would actually consult some information security and technology experts before making public statements like the one that sparked this little controversy."

The statement being referred to was Senator Hatch's comment during a June 2003 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on copyright abuse that "If we can find some way to do this without destroying their machines, we'd be interested in hearing about that. If that's the only way, then I'm all for destroying their machines. If you have a few hundred thousand of those, I think people would realize" just how serious the government is about protecting copyright.

To begin with, lets take a little look at the history of this battle and past attempts at legislation. While whining and moaning that illegal file sharing is costing them millions of dollars, the RIAA lost a price-fixing case. Actually, the term "lost" is used loosely in this case. It is sort of like when the NFL (National Football League) "lost" the antitrust trial brought against them by the USFL (United States Football League) but were only penalized $1 in damages (no I didn't forget the word "million" or "billion"- they were literally forced to pay one dollar).

The attorneys general of 43 states and territories as well as 3.5 million consumers brought the case against the RIAA for collusion and price fixing to maintain artificially high prices for compact discs. Although an FTC estimate put the loss to consumers at over $480 million (a conservative number by my estimates), the industry was ordered to pay a paltry $143 million in damages and restitution. I personally had nearly 500 compact discs at the time of the suit and would have accounted for thousands of dollars of the overpaid money resulting from the price fixing, but as a result of the settlement I was entitled to receive all of about $12 in damages. Woo hoo! Sure glad I "won" that case.

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