RIAA Blunder: Hey, Stop Stealing The Music!

If you haven't read this story yet, go check out the serious blunder made by the RIAA (Record Industry Association of America). I guess if you pay dues in this organization you are supporting computer development efforts aimed to crawl through internet servers scouring them for music mp3s.

[…] Last Thursday, the RIAA sent a stiff copyright warning to Penn State's department of astronomy and astrophysics. Department officials at first were puzzled, because the notification invoked the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and alleged that one of its FTP sites was unlawfully distributing songs by the musician Usher. The letter demanded that the department “remove the site” and delete the infringing sound files.

But there weren't any files on the Penn State server.

[…] Except, that is, when Soccio realized two things. The department has on its faculty a professor emeritus named Peter Usher whose work on radio-selected quasars the FTP site hosted. The site also had a copy of an a capella song performed by astronomers about the Swift gamma ray satellite, which Penn State helped to design. The combination of the word “Usher” and the suffix “.mp3” had triggered the RIAA's automated copyright crawlers […]

Another tactic the RIAA is exploring would send offending code to the servers or the computers of those downloading illegal files. Though this approach might have serious consequences for the record companies.

[…] A more malicious program, dubbed “freeze,” locks up a computer system for a certain duration ? minutes or possibly even hours ? risking the loss of data that was unsaved if the computer is restarted. It also displays a warning about downloading pirated music. Another program under development, called “silence,” scans a computer's hard drive for pirated music files and attempts to delete them. One of the executives briefed on the silence program said that it did not work properly and was being reworked because it was deleting legitimate music files, too […]

An organization that is expending its resources on this type of effort amazes me. Why won't the RIAA wake up and work with its members to develop and support an online digital music policy that flanks the moves of offenders and offers a better alternative. For example, the Apple developed iTunes Music Store. Who was the initiator in this effort? Apple. Do you think the RIAA is knocking on doors of companies that would have the ability to develop a service that would not offend those with an affinity to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act?

I guess this must be the American Way. If you can't come to terms with your customers — sue them.