TechCrunch refuses to let their claim that Last.FM gave CBS user data which was passed onto the RIAA lie. In a post called Deny This, Last FM, they claim that:
CBS requested user data from Last.fm, including user name and IP address. CBS wanted the data to comply with a RIAA request but told Last.fm the data was going to be used for “internal use only.” It was only after the data was sent to CBS that Last.fm discovered the real reason for the request. Last.fm staffers were outraged, say our sources, but the data had already been sent to the RIAA.
Reddit has noticed that TechCrunch is censoring comments critical of the post. Last.FM emphatically denies handing over the data:
Any suggestion that we were complicit in transferring user data to any third party is incorrect. [...] It really seems like someone is trying to slander us here.
Here’s a more realistic, simpler explanation of what happened–one that wouldn’t require any special access to Last.FM’s private user data at all. The RIAA either asked CBS for the data, or got it themselves, from the public song timeline of Last.FM users. For example, at www.last.fm/user/elliottback/tracks you can download ~400 pages of songs I’ve listened to:
This gives them the following data: user, song, time. This is enough to tell that a user is listening to unreleased music, which is probably part of what the RIAA would use in trying to make a case against music pirates. For example–the Eminem Relapse album came out on May 15th, so theoretically anyone listening to it before then is a pirate.
The following remark was made by Marie. L. van Uitert, MPAA attorney in the Jammie Thomas trial. She wrote in a brief:
It is often very difficult, and in some cases, impossible, to provide such direct proof when confronting modern forms of copyright infringement, whether over P2P networks or otherwise; understandably, copyright infringers typically do not keep records of infringement. Mandating that proof could thus have the pernicious effect of depriving copyright owners of a practical remedy against massive copyright infringement in many cases.
The rest of the brief goes on to list the reasons why the MPAA feels it should not have to meet the full burden of proof in its case (i.e. proving actual distribution). For them, the existence of a location where the copyright material could be copied is sufficient grounds for prosecution. When you take this off the internet, this is equivalent to suing some for 12 * $150,00 for loaning someone a CD they later copied.
Since I have to deal with all the time, I’m saving a form letter here for future use:
Hello **infringing party**,
It’s come to my attention that you are illegally reproducing content from the Elliott Back Blog Network on your site. If you are unfamiliar with copyright law and how it applies to the Elliott Back Blog Network, please review our legal notice at elliottback.com/legal/.
Here are some examples of your infringing content:
The Elliott Back Blog Network takes our own intellectual property very seriously. Please remove all of our network’s material, cease and desist further copying, and reply in writing of your compliance within 24 hours. A list of our network properties can be found for your convenience at elliottback.com.
Elliott C. Back
I’m also going to make a list of URLs I need to hear back from, and when I emailed them: