RIAA copyright education contradictory, critics say

Advocacy groups say video offered to universities contains inaccuracies about the legality of copying music.

The music industry's educational video about copyright law is full of baloney, according to several trade and public interest groups.

The Consumer Electronics Association and Public Knowledge are among the groups to issue a joint statement condemning some statements on the Recording Industry Association of America's video, which the RIAA has plans to distribute to the nation's universities.

The RIAA's video, a copy of which can be found on its Web site, suggests that students should be skeptical of free content and that it's always illegal to make a copy of a song, even if it's just to introduce a friend to a new band, said Robert Schwartz, general counsel for the Home Recording Rights Coalition, one of the groups opposed to the video.

The RIAA has feuded often with groups representing companies, such as CD-burner manufacturers, that have a stake in music sharing. They claim the music industry tramples over the rights of individuals as it fights music piracy. The RIAA has aggressively litigated against people who share music files on the Web for the past several years. The RIAA's strategy now is to launch a campaign to educate young people of the consequences they face when they download music illegally.

"First, we were told we should not enforce our rights," said an RIAA representative responding to critics of the video. "Now we are told education is wrong, too. We won't accept such a do-nothing approach. We'll continue to work with respected higher-education groups to engage students to think critically about these issues."

The RIAA says that more than 350 universities have expressed interest in the video.

In the RIAA's seven-minute video, the narrator attempts to explain copyright law and some of the other hazards with downloading music from the Web, such as being sued or arrested. At one point, the narrator tells viewers it's okay for them to make a copy for themselves "as long as it's for you."

"Making copies for your friends, or giving it to them to copy, or e-mailing it to anyone is just as illegal as free downloading," the video narrator says.

This appears to contradict a statement made in the Frequently Asked Question section that accompanies the video, Schwartz claims.

An FAQ-section question asks whether someone who has bought music has the right to ever upload or download music. The RIAA's answer says that it's okay for productive or scholarly works. The video's critics say the response makes no mention of allowable uses for home recordings, even for individual use, which the law allows.

"The RIAA seems to be making up the rules instead of citing any consistent interpretation or precedent as to the law," Schwartz said.

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