As the new millennium dawns, a battle is shaping up in cyber- space that may redefine the manner in which many people obtain copies of their favorite music. In one corner stands the record and music industry, seeking to protect their current distribution channels and to control the dissemination of their intellectual property over the Internet. In the other corner, a group consisting of Inter- net mavens, some musical artists, including acts ranging from in- dependent bands to well-established headliners, and the ever present cyberpirates, stand ready to exploit the Internet as a means to quickly and cheaply distribute and download songs. The development of compressed music files is the catalyst for this struggle over the use of the Internet to distribute songs. Our society increasingly accepts and values the Internet as an integral part of everyday life. For example, the nation’s use of the Internet has grown significantly in the past year alone. Forty-six percent of the estimated 74 million American Internet users began their use within the past twelve months. As a consequence, more people than ever are turning to the Internet to shop, gather news, socialize, and play. Currently, the two most popular uses for the Internet are email and on-line shopping. In connection with the increased general use of the Internet, musical artists and consumers have turned to the Net as a means to distribute songs. The Internet provides artists with another avenue to disseminate their works while also enabling consumers to sample various recordings with ease. The availability of data compression formats such as MP3 enable web surfers to both upload and download music files with an efficiency that was previously un- heard of. The ability of consumers to gain ready access to music files via the Internet may ultimately transform the manner in which the entire music industry operates. Unfortunately, although many of the files available on-line are copies authorized by the artists, there are also a large number of pirated files that users post without the artists’ permission. This article addresses the current controversy over the distribution of unauthorized digital music files over the Internet. The recent introduction of the Rio, essentially a Walkman for MP3 digital music files, and the record industry’s efforts to prevent the sale of the Rio raise the issue of whether today’s federal copyright framework is sufficient to protect copyright owners, in this case the music industry, from piracy on the Net. Part I of this article provides background information on the current use of the Internet to distribute music files and a brief analysis of how the distribution of unauthorized music files violates a copyright owner’s fundamental rights under the Copyright Act of 1976. Part II provides the technical background necessary to understand the technology at issue, namely the MP3 format and the Rio MP3 player, and introduces the litigation between a record industry group and Diamond Multimedia, the manufacturer of the Rio, over Diamond’s right to market and distribute the Rio. Part III presents an analysis of the current copyright law as it pertains to the distribution of digital music over the Net. This section of the article includes an analysis of the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 which formed the basis for the record industry’s recent action against Diamond Multi- media, and a critique of the decision in that case. Part III additionally examines the recently enacted Digital Millennium Copyright Act to determine whether the Act contains adequate protections for copyright owners’ rights in cyberspace. Part IV contains proposals for measures that Congress, the record industry, and musical artists might consider in order to further the protection of musical copyrights on the information superhighway. This article concludes that while technological innovations such as the Rio and MP3 technology may have rendered the amendments to the copy- right statute contained in the Audio Home Recording Act obsolete, the new Digital Millennium Copyright Act represents significant progress in furthering the protection of copyrights on the Internet and provides a framework of information regulation.
Rio Grande: The MP3 Showdown at Highnoon in Cyberspace,
10 Fordham Intell. Prop. Media & Ent. L.J. 433
Available at: http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/iplj/vol10/iss2/10