The RIAA Responds Lamely to Claims of Piracy Advocates

Categories: Tech
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TorrentFreak, a news site that basically supports illicit downloading, last week used a half-assed ISP-lookup service to conclude that employees of both the Recording Industry Association of America and the Department of Homeland Security had downloaded illicit copies of various copyrighted works, including episodes of the Showtime series Dexter, and songs by Jay-Z and Kanye West. The site had earlier made similar charges against several big media companies.

These accusations are far from solid. TorrentFreak, as its name implies, essentially promotes and defends piracy. The editor goes by "Ernesto." If Ernesto hadn't found any evidence that didn't support his thesis, he wouldn't have written anything. It wouldn't have fit his agenda. And any evidence that he does find, he's going to play up for all it's worth, even if it's worth next to nothing.

The lookup site Ernesto used, YouHaveDownloaded, is even sketchier. The Russia-based site is full of wackiness, like the bio of its main tech dude, Ruslan K., who says: "Ruslan has a vision and I'm ready to bet $100,000 against a candy that he'll be on the very top of the Internet mountain in 5 years." And the site's main man, Suren Ter, responded in the site's comments section to criticism of its accuracy by asserting: "The site is just for show."

It's impossible to tell how accurate the site is, but all available information points to: Not very. For one thing, the site doesn't account for the use of dynamic IP addresses, which get assigned within a block to various users at various times. Any given address could easily have been used by some kid in a Georgetown dorm room and then been assigned to the RIAA's Washington, D.C. offices. And the RIAA says that while it has been assigned some of the IP addresses within the range reported by YouHaveDownloaded it used those addresses for publishing its website, not for Internet access. YouHaveDownloaded apparently doesn't make such distinctions.

Dismissing Ernesto's claims should have been easy, and yet the RIAA, as is its wont, nevertheless made itself look completely stupid in its response. Spokesman Jonathan Lamy told Cnet's Elinor Mills: "We checked the block of IP addresses allocated to RIAA staff to access the Internet and no RIAA employee was responsible for this alleged use of BitTorrent."

This response was in an e-mail, and despite the cluelessness of the overall message, it is carefully worded -- a nondenial denial. Note the phrase "This alleged use." He doesn't assert that no employee has ever used BitTorrent or downloaded an illicit file. Maybe Ernesto's findings were way off, and yet at the same time half the RIAA's staffers were loading their disk drives with Who's The Boss reruns and The Best of Scritti Politti (the RIAA seems stuck in the '80s). Lamy's response would allow for that possibility.

Further, implied in the statement is the fact that the RIAA isn't particularly careful about what its staffers might be doing with their computers. The best answer Lamy could have given -- if only it had been true -- would have been: "It's impossible that our employees downloaded illicit material because we don't allow them free access to file-sharing software." It's not like it's hard to deny such access, or at least to monitor networks to make sure the software isn't there.

Actually, the best answer would have been: "Look, we know people illegally download copyrighted material. We have humans working for us, and a good number of humans do this. That's the problem we're trying to address. Doubtless, some of our employees, being humans, have downloaded copyrighted material, just like the employees of any other organization have."

But the RIAA, the Motion Picture Association of America -- and all the other media companies and lobbyists that sue their own customers or try to pass insane laws like the proposed Stop Online Privacy Act -- don't see piracy as the inevitable outcome of a digitally connected world, a technological and economic problem that needs to be addressed soberly and responsibly. They see it as a war, with them on the side of righteousness and everybody who has ever downloaded a song on the side of evil -- as a dirty criminal. To them, a kid who downloaded a handful of songs is just as bad as The Pirate Bay, a piracy site that is amoral to the point of sociopathy (and which, unlike the downloading kid, makes money from piracy.)

Thanks to their own public behavior and statements, for the media companies to admit that some employees might have downloaded something would be tantamount to admitting that they had child molesters working for them.

This is the rhetorical corner into which the media industry has painted itself. It can't respond to possibly nutty allegations with anything like intellectual honesty, because it chose years ago to address the piracy problem with nothing but dishonesty.

The Department of Homeland Security, meanwhile, hasn't yet addressed the allegations. But it uses government computer networks -- which are usually poorly managed and full of holes -- so there's probably all kinds of horrible stuff on its employees' drives. In any case, though, the "hypocrisy" charge can't really be applied here, even if Ernesto's allegations are 100 percent accurate. DHS must enforce the law, whether the law is crazy or not.

Dan Mitchell has written for Fortune, the New York Times, Slate, Wired, National Public Radio, the Chicago Tribune, and many others.

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19 comments
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sab0tage
sab0tage

It would appear Dan Mitchell knows very little about the topic he is covering. Does this count as journalism these days?

Guest
Guest

for mainstream outlets, yes it does.

which is why the niche indies like Torrent Freak are so popular.  (they actually know what they are writing about.)

eduboris
eduboris

Fox news is probably hiring Dan right now! great job at totally messing all the facts into fiction somehow!

Facepalm
Facepalm

It is astounding how stupid the pro-RIAA people seem to be.

Ryzzo
Ryzzo

Top notch journalism there, Danny.  A couple more slanderous hit pieces like this, completely devoid of facts or research, and you could land yourself a cushy job on Fox or maybe even a lobbying position for the content industry. 

Dan's To Do List:

1. learn the difference between static and dynamic IP addresses2. actually research a legitimate news site before I defame them by claiming they "promote and defend piracy"3. research the site I will claim is unreliable and filled with "wackiness" to find out if it is actually unreliable or just how it works in general... maybe I could ask the people who run it how it works since they seem to be able to explain it to everyone else that asks... nvm, just make some shit up4. find out what this word research actually means and why people keep telling me to do it5. punch myself in the nuts for claiming to be a journalist6. make a sandwich and celebrate another job well done

Idiot detector
Idiot detector

"Any given address could easily have been used by some kid in a Georgetown dorm room and then been assigned to the RIAA's Washington, D.C. offices.

You're an idiot.

Guest
Guest

It's important to point out why he's an idiot; dynamic IPs are usually handed out from a block allocated to a specific entity according to what they have rights to, block allocations are usually handled at a much higher level than 'some kid in a Georgetown dorm room' (and incidentally, those dorm rooms are locked down tighter than a frog's anus for traffic).  The block supplied to the RIAA is *their* block.  Directly allocated and purchased a while back.  Even dynamic allocation tends towards static over a long enough timespan because there is no real need to change your leases.

Even in the fictitious example of the dorm room, they're usually nat'd into an internal set of addresses for a single external network.

All that being said, I'm now really intrigued why Dan Mitchell believes that SOPA is bad; is it because other people say so, or does he understand the implications of selective and punitively blocking sections of the internet without due process?

Nigel
Nigel

It strikes me as par for the course that Jonathan is at issue with said methodology since its the same utilized by the law firms you folks hire to run your extortion racket. Pay up sir.

That said, Torrent Freak is a news site moron.  I think I took a wrong turn somewhere and found myself on foxnews.  Facts not required here.

Richard M Stallman
Richard M Stallman

Any half competent tech journalist would know those ranges are STATIC and can't be used by anyone else. Kinda makes you wonder if you've ever been paid or received gifts from an anti piracy group in the past

Flo Berticus
Flo Berticus

There's nothing quite like getting to the facts of the case... and this article is nothing like fact-based.

Poor Jonathan is busy claiming they 'didn't do it', but the evidence is there, the same evidence they've used in trials for years to badger people for hundreds of thousands in 'damages' (and who can forget posing as one defendants parents, to phone a school and talk to the defendants children). The fact is, Jonathan, We know you did it. We know you did, because the same evidence you claimed is conclusive in court, is now pointing at you.

As for Dan, your character assasinations are undone a bit, by them being so poorly researched. It's almost like you had an hour to the deadline, and just rushed something out. If I were you, I'd be ashamed by this piece.

MrEricSir
MrEricSir

"But it uses government computer networks -- which are usually poorly managed and full of holes -- so there's probably all kinds of horrible stuff on its employees' drives.""Poorly managed and full of holes" is the industry standard.  No need to point fingers at DHS when even big companies can't do any better.

Jonathan Lamy
Jonathan Lamy

It always amazes me when people fail to actually check with sources quoted in an underlying story before citing it and drawing damning conclusions.  Dan, if you had, I would have told you that the use of the world "alleged" is exactly for the reasons you cited at the top of the story:  who know if the website is legit.  I did in fact tell CNET that no RIAA staff member had used bittorrent. The "alledged" was referring to the possibility that the whole site is a hoax and who knows if it is accurate in the first place.

Jonathan LamyRIAA

That_Anonymous_Coward
That_Anonymous_Coward

Would you like to comment on the RIAA pursing lawsuits against people who allegedly downloaded but not prosecuting people publicly admitting guilt?http://recordingindustryvspeop...

Someone on your network, using IP addresses belonging to you, was using bittorrent, and I think this speaks volumes about how horrible this "crime" is actually viewed within your organization.  Do as we say not as we do? 

Some of the copyright extortion firms claim that the law allows them to get payment from the person paying the bills who might be completely unaware of the bad acts committed with their connection.

And for the record, most people view that website as much more accurate than any report you have ever issued on "piracy" and I trust their methods much more than yours.

I remain...TAC

Guest
Guest

How much money have you leached off the artists this year, Jonathan? And how many of their fans have you chased and terrified with legal threats? Just what exactly is the purpose of the RIAA?

Once the artists work out they can cut you out and keep 90% of the revenue, you're gone. The fans already have.

she prefers drummers
she prefers drummers

i would get in trouble for saying it publicly, but you've nailed it mr guest.

many recording artists ARE questioning strongly what happens to the money earned off their music. the last thing most of us want is a war with the people who appreciate what we do.

the new distribution models coming online make itunes 30% look like a bad deal, let alone the 95% most music corporations take. i envy the new musicians coming up who have a choice between signing with the RIAA's members or going independent and taking advantage of the amazing online tools now available such as bittorrent.

my advice to any of them would be stay the hell away from the industry, it is not your friend, something most musicians learn way to late.

Mail
Mail

Jonathan, I agree. It amazes me when people fail to actually check with sources as well. Let's fix it. Drop as a message. We'll send you exact time stamps etc.

YouHaveDownloaded

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