Making P2P Music ‘Available’ Ruled Illegal, Regardless Of Actual Sharing

An Arizona district judge has agreed with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) that a couple who showed their personal music collection via the KaZaA file-sharing network broke copyright law – even though the association did not prove that any of the files were actually downloaded. Pamela and Jeffrey Howell of Scottsdale were sued last year after an online investigations firm hired by the RIAA took screenshots of their family computer’s KaZaA folder containing 2,329 tracks. The Howells claimed the music was for personal use and was only visible to fellow users due to a “malfunction or tampering by a third party”. The case did not prove that music was actually distributed to other KaZaA users. But, according to the ruling (PDF via Internet Law & Regulation): “Under 17 U.S.C. § 106(3), distribution of copyrighted material need not involve a physical transfer … The mere presence of copyrighted works in a shared folder is enough to trigger liability.”
Recording Industry Vs The People reckons this is the second such instance of mere availability of tracks being enough to prosecute alleged file sharers. Whilst this is the trigger in only a minority of such prosecutions, it does appear to suggest the RIAA has greater leeway in pursuing copyright suits.