The next big battle in the music-copyright wars: The
recording industry and Hollywood vs. Corporate America. In a thinly veiled threat mailed on Oct. 25 to CEOs of the nation's 1,000 biggest companies, four leading lobby groups from the film and recording industry warned that corporations could be liable for breaking copyright laws if employees use company networks to download and store music or movies illegally.
That's no empty threat, says Hilary Rosen, chairman of the Recording Industry Association of America, the letter's lead signatory. The missive serves as "fair warning" to companies that lawsuits could be coming unless the
practice stops, the RIAA says.
After monitoring popular file-swapping sites such as KaZaA and Gnutella, the industry group says it has documented rising use of corporate servers to store stolen music and wants that to end. High-speed lines make it easier for employees to download those bandwith-hogging Eminem or Dixie Chicks tunes at work instead of at home, where connections tend to be slower. Says Rosen: "This has shown itself to be an increasing problem."
"MORE ACCEPTED." Joey Lamb knows that all too well. The senior network engineer for Kansas City (Mo.) technology consultant Whitbread Management says it's "a constant battle" to keep the company's 400 employees from using its networks to download peer-to-peer applications. "It has become more the norm and more accepted," Lamb says. "Not only is it illegal but it uses up our resources." EMarketer.com reports that a survey of 15,000 corporate PCs last year found that 20% contained music-swapping software.
CEOs might want to take heed. The well-financed RIAA has been in
aggressive pursuit of copyright violators in recent years, racking up some impressive wins, including a landmark case against file-sharing pioneer Napster. Most recently, it scored a $1 million settlement with Integrated Information Systems, an Arizona-based technology company that had been running a server solely for music-swapping among employees. By Lorraine Woellert in Washington