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Frequently Awkward Questions for the Entertainment Industry

The RIAA and MPAA trot out their spokespeople at conferences and public events all over the country, repeating their misleading talking points. Innovators are pirates, fair use is theft, the sky is falling, up is down, and so on. Their rhetoric shouldn't be given a free pass.

To that end, EFF has prepared a sample list of tough questions for times when you hear entertainment industry representatives speaking and want to challenge their positions. Asking hard questions is a way of "keeping honest people honest" and revealing when they're actually being deceptive. Feel free to republish these and add your own questions, or send additions to us at editor@eff.org.

Music

  1. The RIAA has sued more than 20,000 music fans for file sharing, yet file sharing continues to rapidly increase both online and offline. When will you stop suing music fans?
  2. The RIAA has sued over 20,000 music fans for file sharing, who have on average paid a $3,750 settlement. That's over $75,000,000. Has any money collected from your lawsuits gone to pay actual artists? Where's all that money going?
  3. The RIAA has sued over 20,000 music fans for file sharing. Recently, an RIAA representative reportedly suggested that "students drop out of college or go to community college in order to be able to afford [P2P lawsuit] settlements." Do you stand by this advice? Is this really good advice for our children's futures?
  4. The RIAA said that it only went after individual file sharers because you couldn't go after P2P system creators. After the Supreme Court's Grokster decision, shouldn't you stop going after music fans?
  5. Major entertainment companies have repeatedly brought lawsuits to block new technologies, including the VCR, Digital Audio Tape recorders, the first MP3 player, the ReplayTV PVR, and now P2P software. Why is your industry so hostile to new technologies?
  6. DRM has clearly failed to stop songs from getting on file sharing networks, but it does prevent me from moving lawfully purchased music onto my iPod and other portable devices. Unlike the major record labels, many popular indie labels offer mp3 downloads through sites like eMusic. Why won't you let fans purchase mp3s as well?
  7. The RIAA says that it doesn't mind if I rip CDs to my personal computer and put them on my iPod. Do I need your permission to do this or can I legally do it even if you object?
  8. Recording off the radio is clearly permitted by copyright law and something Americans have done for over 25 years, but the RIAA supports legislation restricting devices that record from digital radio. Why are you against TiVo for radio?
  9. Sony BMG recently implemented a DRM technology that damaged users' computers. But for independent researchers' analyses, this serious flaw may have gone undiscovered. After this scandal, will record labels allow any computer scientist or security expert to examine these products and agree not to sue them under the DMCA?

Video

  1. The major movie studios have been enjoying some of their most profitable years in history over the past five years. Can you cite to any specific studies that prove noncommercial file sharing among fans, as opposed to commercial DVD piracy, has hurt the studios' bottom line in any significant way?
  2. Is it legal for me to bypass CSS DVD encryption in order to skip the "unskippable" previews at the beginning of so many DVDs? Why should I have to be forced to watch these ads when I already bought the DVD?
  3. Is it legal for me to skip the commercials when I play back time-shifted TV recordings on my TiVo or other PVR? How is this different than getting up and going to the bathroom?
  4. Why are there region-code restrictions on DVDs? How does this prevent copyright infringement? Is it illegal for me to buy or and use a region-free DVD player, or to modify a DVD player to be region-free?
  5. In several lawsuits, the MPAA has repeatedly said that it's illegal to make a back-up of a DVD that I purchased. Why is this illegal?
  6. Is it ever legal for me to use software like DVD Shrink or Handbrake to rip a digital copy of a DVD I own onto a video iPod or my laptop? What if I want clips to use for a class report? Or if a teacher wants to include a clip in a PowerPoint slide?
  7. Is there anything illegal about copying TV shows Iíve recorded off the air onto my video iPod?
  8. If the MPAA-backed "broadcast flag" bill passes, I won't be able to move recorded TV content digitally to my current video iPod. Why should TV studios get to take away my ability to lawfully time- and space-shift?
  9. Major entertainment companies have repeatedly brought lawsuits to block new technologies, including the VCR, Digital Audio Tape recorders, the first MP3 player, the ReplayTV PVR, and now P2P software. Why is your industry so hostile to new technologies?
  10. Hollywood is pushing legislation to "plug the analog hole." These restrictions won't keep copyrighted video off of file sharing networks, but they will block me from excerpting a recorded TV show for a school report or using tools like the Slingbox to send recorded TV shows to myself over the Internet. Why are you trying to restrict these legitimate uses?