THE RIAA FINDS CHRIS
Chris loves music and movies. For high school graduation, his parents gave him an iPod, and with earnings from summer jobs, Chris purchased a laptop computer. Before leaving for college, Chris logged onto the internet and downloaded onto his laptop hundreds of songs, thirty movies, sixty albums and ten movie soundtracks. Because Chris could not afford to buy all of these items from stores, he downloaded them from websites that provided them without any charge. Chris transferred many of the songs onto his iPod. When he arrived at college, Chris learned that when he logged into the campus computer network, anyone on campus could access whatever he put into his computer’s public folder and he could access the content in anyone else’s public folder. During orientation week, Chris put the songs, movies and movie soundtracks into his public folder so other students in the college could access them.
THE LETTER FROM THE RIAA
On October 1st, Chris received a letter from the Recording Industry Association of American (“RIAA”). The letter demanded that Chris immediately stop all acts of “piracy”, destroy all illegally obtained content belonging to the RIAA, and return an affidavit in which Chris was to swear under oath that he had complied with the terms of the letter. If Chris failed to do so, the letter threatened to sue him for “willful copyright infringement” in a lawsuit, which would demand $150,000 in damages for each work.
Chris must decide how to proceed. Before making his decision, Chris will consult with you, another student, seeking some help in answering a list of specific questions he has. Next, with your help, Chris will decide on the best plan for responding to the letter from the RIAA, what action (if any) to take about the songs, movies, albums and soundtracks on his computer, and how to proceed in the future given his love for music and limited financial resources.
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO HELP CHRIS ANSWER:
Did he do anything wrong or illegal?
If so, what are the penalties?
What is the RIAA trying to protect? What do they mean by “piracy?”
How should he respond to the letter?
What is your recommendation about other content, such as the movies he has downloaded?
ETHICAL PUZZLE #2: “NADERMAN”
JOE’S WRITING ASSIGNMENT
For a college writing seminar, Joe was asked to create a satire. He purchased a DVD of the movie Spiderman from a local bookstore. Joe watched the movie and then wrote a new screenplay for it. He digitally altered the version he had purchased so that the dialogue and characters’ names were changed. The music from the original soundtrack remained the same and the film appeared just as it did on Joe’s DVD. On the day his assignment was to be performed in class, Joe read the following introduction before showing his film:
“For my satire, I created “Naderman.” I took the movie Spiderman, and I made some changes. I renamed the owner of the newspaper, “Ted Turner.” I changed the evil Norman Osborne’s name to Dick Chaney. In my movie, Norman’s son, Harry Osborne, is George W. Bush. Peter Parker the photographer is called Michael Moore, and Spiderman has been changed to “Naderman.” The purpose of my movie is to suggest that our political leaders are conspiring with people, like Turner, who control the media, to scare the public so that Republicans will gain more and more power. Enjoy the show!”
Joe’s dialogue was rough and darkly comic. Joe changed the statement from the original movie, “With great power, comes great responsibility,” to, “With great power comes more power.”
THE RESPONSE ON CAMPUS
Joe’s professor gave him high marks for the quality of the satire. Joe showed it to several friends, who loved the movie. They encouraged him to post his project to his web site for others to see. He posted it to his personal site, JoeDriver.com. An artist from illegalart.org contacted Joe to ask if he would like to sell copies of his film at one of their upcoming events.
THE LETTER FROM SONY PICTURES
Ten days after Joe posted Naderman on his web site, he received a letter from Sony Pictures demanding that Joe immediately stop any further reproductions or distributions of “Naderman” and that he destroy all the copies he has made. Attached to the letter is a Complaint for Copyright Infringement, demanding over $150,000. The letter states that if Joe does not comply with the Studio’s demands within ten days, the Complaint will be filed in federal district court.
Joe must decide how to proceed. Joe has asked for your advice, knowing you are studying business law. He must come up with an answer for Sony, and decide how to respond to the request from illegalart.org.
Did Joe do anything wrong? Did he do anything illegal?
How can he have violated copyright law without copying anything?
Doesn’t it make a difference that he bought the DVD? Isn’t it his property?
How should he respond to the letter? How should he respond to the artist from illegalart.org?
What is the rule regarding satire and parody?
Who has the right to derivative works?
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