RIAA will stop suing fans. A nation wonders what took them so long.

Good news for a snowbound morning: The RIAA has announced that it will not file any more lawsuits against alleged music pirates.

From the Wall Street Journal:

The decision represents an abrupt shift of strategy for the industry, which has opened legal proceedings against about 35,000 people since 2003. Critics say the legal offensive ultimately did little to stem the tide of illegally downloaded music. And it created a public-relations disaster for the industry, whose lawsuits targeted, among others, several single mothers, a dead person and a 13-year-old girl.

Instead, the Recording Industry Association of America said it plans to try an approach that relies on the cooperation of Internet-service providers. The trade group said it has hashed out preliminary agreements with major ISPs under which it will send an email to the provider when it finds a provider’s customers making music available online for others to take.

The RIAA plans to finish pursuing all currently active lawsuits – so Jammie Thomas isn’t safe, yet – but when the last one is over we will finally be able to close the book on one of the most absurd chapters in American copyright history.

I have to say, while the end of these lawsuits is wonderful news, especially for my employer and other universities and colleges across the country, a part of me is a little sad. The story of the crazily misguided RIAA suing its customers (and dead people) has become one of the mainstays of my copyright lectures. With the RIAA finally approaching sanity, I lose one of my favorite villains.

Hat tip to Fred Benenson via Twitter.

Update 12/21/08, 8:14 am EST: It turns out that the WSJ article was misleading about the RIAA’s phasing out of lawsuits. It claims the organization stopped filing lawsuits “early this fall”, but Ray Beckerman has uncovered suits filed as recently as last Monday. It’s unclear whether the WSJ was misleading on purpose, or simply misled by RIAA spokespeople. So nevermind, for now. Our villain remains villainous.

Collected stories: Paul Krugman on e-books; Science vs. the RIAA; Cory Doctorow is a bestseller; pictures of libraries

I just got back from a week of vacation, followed by a week of post-vacation crunch, so here’s a small assortment of things I would have blogged about sooner, but didn’t.

Paul Krugman says it better In a column titled Bits, Bands, and Books: Paying for Creativity in a Digital World, Paul Krugman describes the impact of the digital revolution on the market for creative content. I think he gets it exactly right. He also calls the Grateful Dead “business pioneers.” Who knew?

Bit by bit, everything that can be digitized will be digitized, making intellectual property ever easier to copy and ever harder to sell for more than a nominal price. And we’ll have to find business and economic models that take this reality into account.

Cory Doctorow and Creative Commons are bestsellers Like all his other books, Cory Doctorow’s latest novel, Little Brother, was released online using a Creative Commons license (BY-NC-SA). Unlike his other books, and unlike any other CC-licensed anything, Little Brother has now spent four weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. It’s the first CC-licensed novel to make the list, and excellent news for people like me who argue that giving stuff away for free online doesn’t mean you can’t sell it for profit, too. Also fun to think about in the context of Paul Krugman’s column on e-books.

Science proves the MPAA and the RIAA are jerks A recent piece in the NYTimes Bits Blog points out a study from the University of Washington which showed that the technologies Big Media uses to investigate illegal file sharing regularly produce false positives.

From the Bits blog:

In two separate studies in August 2007 and May of this year, the researchers set out to examine who was participating in BitTorrent file-sharing networks and what they were sharing. The researchers introduced software agents into these networks to monitor their traffic. Even though those software agents did not download any files, the researchers say they received more than 400 take-down requests accusing them of participating in the downloads.

The researchers concluded that enforcement agencies are looking only at I.P. addresses of participants on these peer-to-peer networks, and not what files are actually downloaded or uploaded — a more resource-intensive process that would nevertheless yield more conclusive information.

In their report, the researchers also demonstrate a way to manipulate I.P. addresses so that another user appears responsible for the file-sharing.

This is not the first time flaws in the RIAA/MPAAs’ strategy have been revealed, and librarians and other concerned parties have been calling for more transparency in their tactics for quite some time. Now opponents of file-sharing lawsuits – not to mention the defendants in those lawsuits – have scientific evidence that these tactics implicate innocent people.

Pictures of Libraries When I travel, instead of collecting souvenirs I like to visit and take pictures of libraries. I saw a few very cool libraries on my recent vacation, including the brand new Openbare Amsterdam Bibliotheek, the Amsterdam public library. I was incredibly impressed with the design of the Amsterdam library. It has a lot of good signage, open spaces and tables for people to hang out and collaborate, tons and tons of computers (both Mac and Windows), good light, inviting stacks that weren’t too tall, and seemingly intuitive organization (from what I could understand of the Dutch).

If you’re interested, have a peek at my Libraries set on Flickr. Also check out the page about the new library at the Openbare Amsterdam Bibliotheek website.