Damage of CRIAs $6 Billion Lawsuit Felt in Anti-Piracy Operation

Last weeks lawsuit against CRIA for commercial copyright infringement sent shock waves throughout the industry as a whole as well as throughout the media and has left some wondering if it’s a case CRIA can recover from both financially and morally. Recently, there was clear evidence that the lawsuit has had an impact on anti-piracy efforts.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

The Ottawa Sun is reporting that a record store owner felt that he had to plead guilty for copyright infringement after possessing just under 300 unauthorized CDs. It was a case lead by the RCMP with non other than CRIA acting as an expert witness in the case.

While the case has more to do with laws surrounding the importing of CDs, the interesting part was found in the following:

Nolan will receive a conditional discharge if he makes a $1,000 charitable donation within three months.

Lawyer Mark Lazarovitz said it was outrageous that his client is being prosecuted when CRIA members, including such names as Sony, EMI and Universal, are the target of a class action lawsuit worth up to $6 billion for allegedly infringing artists’ copyright.

“Yet my client is before the court,” Lazarovitz said.

Nolan said the 100 CDs represent a tiny fraction of the hundreds of thousands of recordings in his collection and that the discs at issue are mostly imports.

This may be the first known case where CRIA being sued for billions for commercial distribution of pirated material has had a very visible effect on any anti-piracy operations CRIA is involved in. It’s not hard to imagine that this would be the last either. How can CRIA have the power to convict anyone for copyright infringement when they themselves have allegedly headed off the biggest commercial piracy operation in Canadian history?

It would appear that it’s extremely easy to make any piracy operation seem like a hollow victory for the major record labels thanks to this lawsuit against CRIA. It makes anti-piracy operations seem more like pirates busting pirates more than anything else and seriously puts into question to whom the law serves. Legitimate and otherwise morally acceptable anti-piracy cases for many – namely busting commercial bootleggers – has been put into serious moral jeopardy for many. It doesn’t really matter whether or not they are completely separate cases at this point.

In the case in question here, some of the imported CDs didn’t contain UPC bar codes. While BoingBoing had their own choice words for the case, one commenter suggested that not every independently produced CD has a UPC bar code to begin with.

“I worked at several independent record stores that brought in foreign copies of records on American labels that were unavailable in the states all the time. Back then,” scifijazznik commented, “there were entire artists’ catalogs the majors in the states didn’t seem to think there was a market for: Bootsy Collins, Julie London, Graham Central Station, tons of classic Blue Note records, etc., that were available out of Japan or Germany. If they were available in the states, both we and our customers would gladly pay less for them. But they were not and we had a loyal following of collectors more than willing to pay for $30 for Japanese imports of CDs that should have been available at reissue prices.”

The commenter added, “There was mention of “live CDs” and some “without bar codes.” Bootlegs are one thing. There are laws against that and the owner’s use of the word “pirated” is likely chosen carefully to address that. But I run an independent label and on our last CD, the manufacturer forgot to print the bar code on the cover. Some perfectly legit labels don’t use bar codes at all, though I imagine that’s not as common as it used to be.”

It’s interesting that there is word that not every single CD in existent that is legitimately sold has a bar code as mentioned in the original story. Whether or not the owner of the recently busted store is being totally honest is another story since there isn’t much evidence being offered publicly at this time through the Sun. What is clear is that the moral standing of the major record labels has fallen off a cliff in the publics eyes and CRIA in the defence of a $6 Billion lawsuit will prove to be a point that keeps biting them in the end whether or not the anti-piracy operation they partake in is clear cut.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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