RIAA Hates Open WiFi

The RIAA is trying to make account owners liable for anything that happens on their network, including people who provide open WiFi. From Wired’s Listening Post Blog:

Debbie Foster was sued by RIAA member company Capitol Records for allegedly sharing copyrighted material on a P2P file sharing network. However, the alleged infringement was apparently committed by someone else with access to her ISP account. Foster had the case dismissed last summer, and as reported by Listening Post earlier this month, was awarded attorney’s fees in excess of $50,000.

For the RIAA, which functions as the legal and lobbying arm of the labels it represents, this was very bad news indeed. If the ruling stands, the RIAA will have to be much more careful about who it sues going forward, adjusting its scatter-shot approach to filing such lawsuits in order to avoid suing the wrong people. But if the RIAA’s appeal is granted, open Wi-Fi hotspots could become standing invitations for the organization to sue.

If the RIAA is successful, the many people who operate unsecured networks will be open to RIAA lawsuits regardless of whether or not they’re sharing music on their computers. Also, free anonymous public wifi could be a thing of the past. Which is more important? Free public WiFi or stopping people from sharing copies of John Mellencamp’s “Our Country.” Oh, wait. No one does that. —MEGHANN MARCO

RIAA Fights Back, Threatens Open Wi-Fi [Wired News via BoingBoing]
(Photo:Andy Armstrong)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Big Picnic says:

    Another consequence is that it would exacerbate the digital divide, as the poor typically rely on open WiFi as their sole internet access.

  2. Citron says:

    This isn’t constructive, but I have to say this. I really hate the RIAA. I don’t even download music (seriously, I just buy CDs from Half.com for

  3. Kornkob says:

    If they manage to establish that precedent how long before thye start chasing the IPS’s too?

  4. SexCpotatoes says:

    Why not come full circle and sue themselves for putting out music to BE pirated.

  5. MattyMatt says:

    I can’t see how, even if their awful appeal is granted, any open network will be “an invitation to sue.” Surely they’d have to suspect wrongdoing in the form of downloading, right?

  6. royal72 says:

    sexcpotatoes you’re fucking brilliant! instead of suing themselves though, it should be every consumer that’s ever purchased and/or stolen a piece of music… “it was terrible your honor! they made me stay up countless hours trying to download kenny loggins’ footloose at .1 kb/s on a school night… and when i realized the time, i stubbed my toe really, really hard trying to hurry to bed. see i still have an indent right there.”

  7. zl9600 says:

    Hey, wait a second, I really like John Cougar’s “Our Carcomp’ny”!

  8. zl9600 says:

    Oh wait, maybe it’s “Car Comp’ny”. Damn that was much better :)

  9. Karl says:

    Ironically enough, the DMCA may come to the rescue. See 17 USC 512:

    (a) Transitory Digital Network Communications.- A service provider shall not be liable for monetary relief, or, except as provided in subsection (j), for injunctive or other equitable relief, for infringement of copyright by reason of the provider’s transmitting, routing, or providing connections for, material through a system or network controlled or operated by or for the service provider, or by reason of the intermediate and transient storage of that material in the course of such transmitting, routing, or providing connections…

    (k) Definitions.-
    (1) Service provider.-
    (A) As used in subsection (a), the term “service provider” means an entity offering the transmission, routing, or providing of connections for digital online communications, between or among points specified by a user, of material of the user’s choosing, without modification to the content of the material as sent or received.So, I think it could be argued that running a WiFi hotspot makes you a “service provider,” and thus not liable under the DMCA. There’s also a section of eligibility, but all that requires is that you terminate accounts of repeat offenders (by blocking MAC addresses, perhaps?) and not interfering with DRM implementations.

    Of course, IANAL. Who knows if this would actually stand up in court. ;)

  10. mechugena says:


    What if I’m running a Fonera hotspot (now operating in Sherman Oaks, CA)? Would that make me not liable?

  11. Xkeeper says:

    That’s utterly hilarious. DMCA actually doing something useful.

    (Yes, the RIAA sucks more and more every day… suprise)

  12. Trai_Dep says:

    Is there anything constructive we can do to make The Man decide this in the reasonable way?

    I purposefully make my bandwidth available, since it’s good for the community (and yeah when I ate ramen 3x a day I borrowed bandwidth, so I’m balancing scales).

    Love to snark, but really who is on this, what can I do to smack down RIAA’s absurd War on Hotspots ™?

    If no one is, then Consumerist people, can you write up a follow-up article with some suggestions? Puhleeease? :D

  13. poornotignorant says:

    Hey I don’t understand this wifi stuff. All I know is I turn on my computer with my Netgear card and I can choose from about a dozen channels and voila! I’m surfing the net. I don’t ask how or why, it just saves me a trip to the library or downtown(PhillY).