In the digital age, piracy is one of the chief concerns of the entertainment industry. With competition for consumer dollars as fierce as it's ever been, movie and music distributors are loathe to lose any of that money to illegally ripped or recorded versions of the work they're putting out. While those on the other side of the issue would argue that the high prices demanded by these industries fuels the piracy that occurs, it is a case of two wrongs still not making a right, as the record industry looks to stop a website that they allege infringes upon their copyrights by providing audio files of YouTube videos.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is suing the website youtube-mp3.org for what they allege is their role in enabling copyright infringement of their works. The website allows users to upload a video file and then converts the audio into an mp3 file for users to download in what is known as stream ripping. While this might prove a convenient feature for those looking to glean audio files from videos and content that they own, it's easy to see how the service can be used with the countless videos of popular songs currently posted to YouTube.
In the suit, the RIAA is seeking $150,000 in damages for each instance of infringement as well as the shutdown of the site. It is the latter demand that has drawn the ire of the Electronic Freedom Foundation, which doggedly champions the cause of freedom in the internet. In a post on the suit, they argue that the request for shutting down the youtube-mp3.org website is overreach on the part of the record industry, and another step in the effort of the entertainment industry as a whole to exert some degree of control over websites. The piece contends that by getting internet service providers and webhosts at the mercy of a judge's order (that was written by the plaintiffs in most instances), they can compel these intermediaries to shut down sites that they take issue with, with little to no recourse for these sites.
The rights of individuals and small businesses weighed against the rights of major corporations is often brought up as a consideration in cases of intellectual property rights. While it is vital that IP rights are taken seriously and protected, it is important that the system be able to balance those against the need for innovation, as well as the basic rights of those on the other side.