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Recording Industry Ass. sues Aimster

Attacks file sharing firm using same arguments used against Napster

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Aimster's attempt to seek judicial protection from the Recording Industry Ass. of America hasn't deterred the litigious music business organisation - yesterday it hit the software company with a Napster-style contributory copyright violation suit.

"Aimster is Napster all over again," said the RIAA. "Beneath the bells and whistles lies the same service that Napster provides."

Those "bells and whistles" include encryption technology designed to ensure users' file sapping activity remained private. To protect that privacy - or maybe just the company's rear end - Aimster filed a suit with the US court earlier this month seeking an ruling that put it beyond the range of the RIAA's legal guns.

Aimster claims that it can't comply with the RIAA's request that it block the sharing of copyright material because that would involve breaking the law - the Digital Millennium Copyright Act declares the subversion of an encryption system design to protect copyrights to be illegal. Aimster says its encryption system is there to protect the copyright its members hold on their own documents. In short, Aimster asked the court to protect it from being forced to crack its own codes.

The company also said that, as a service provider, it's not responsible for the actions of its users, again as per the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Napster tried the same argument, but failed to convince the court. It's hard to see Aimster doing any better.

"Our position is that we are an ISP, and we comply with the [DMCA's] safe harbour provisions," said George Carpinello, Aimster's legal counsel, earlier this month. "The RIAA is trying to impose on us a duty to patrol and censor what goes through a private network."

That argument clearly hasn't persuaded the RIAA, and given the way the Napster case went, it's probably going to be successful here too. Apart from Aimster's trick with the DMCA's encryption clause, it's hard to see that it has any more of a case than Napster did. ®

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