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Students hostage to legislative blackmail

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A multinational recording-industry front group called the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) has filed suit with the Tainan District Prosecutor's Office against fourteen students at Taiwan's National Chengkung University, accusing them of illegally copying and trading MP3 music files, the Taipei Times reports.

The students themselves tell a different story, but according to the paper, the industry group's local collaborator, Li Jui-bin, claimed that copyright violations on university campuses is out of control, and that previous, non-aggressive efforts to discourage it had proven ineffective.

He indicated that scapegoating a handful of students would serve as a warning to others, and declared that the unfortunate fourteen will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

The industry will not accept a settlement in the case, he vowed.

Students throughout Taiwan have since been expressing alarm on numerous BBS, and are also exchanging tips on how to avoid being caught if university officials elsewhere are cowed into raiding their dormitory rooms and examining their personal computers while they're away at class.

Keeping such files on portable hard drives which can easily be concealed on one's person seems to us the best suggestion currently circulating.

Who are these clowns?
The IFPI is an international spin organization much like the American RIAA which tries to justify the appalling greed and imperial ambitions of the recording industry by demonizing copyrights violators and blaming them for every dirty trick they're forced to stoop to.

Internet piracy is "cyber-theft on a huge scale, and it's a very big obstacle to the music industry's own advances to develop legitimate ways for consumers to enjoy music on-line," the group bleats.

This is pure RIAA Scripture, meant to excuse the industry's obvious reluctance to make music available on the Net. But the true 'problem' from the industry's perspective is that the Net makes it too easy for non-aligned companies to get into the act and dare compete with them.

Internet piracy, then, is the industry's bogey man justifying efforts to shut down music distributors such as MP3.com and Napster which it can't control, in its quest to monopolize content distribution as well as production.

It's clear that the industry intends to withhold significant Internet distribution schemes until after it's squashed all competing entities, by the clever tactic of making competition a crime with recent copyright laws such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and EU Directive on Copyright, which it so vigorously sponsored, and so eagerly helped to draft.

Blackmail

The IFPI is organized by regions such as North America, Europe, Asia/Pacific, Latin America, and so on; but its Board of Directors is composed of such familiar personalities as EMI's Ken Berry, BMG's Joel Schoenfeld, Sony's Robert Bowlin, Universal's Jorgen Larsen, Warner's Stephen Shrimpton, and the RIAA's own Hilary Rosen.

Clearly the mere international arm of the American RIAA, the group's mission is to harmonize all the world's law's and regulations to precisely what the industry wants.

Because East Asia is notorious for its absolutely laughable copyright enforcement, we might imagine that by terrorizing a handful of young students in an authoritarian country such as Taiwan (look for similar busts in Singapore and South Korea soon), the group is showing its exasperation -- even desperation -- with this state of affairs.

The IFPI's Taiwanese mouthpiece, Li Jui-bin, spoke triumphantly of 'sending a message'. We reckon the subtext is directed primarily towards the country's lawmakers, hinting that the industry is prepared to continue making criminals of promising young kids until the legislature capitulates to the blackmail, and obediently drafts its own DMCA. ®

Story Update

The uni MP3 raid: Reports from the front lines

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