Stronger Loving World

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Friday, August 20, 2004


My brother recently received two cease and desist letters in the mail from Cablevision and from MGM entertainment regarding his downloading of the television show "Dead Like Me". I have never seen Dead Like Me. The first letter is from Cablevision (addressed to my father, whose computer he used) informing him that optimum online customers have signed a user agreement barring him from illegal downloading.

This is the letter from MGM with the specific violations:

This is a show on HBO. We get HBO at home, and I'm pretty sure that videotaping the programs one by one as they appeared on television is not illegal. Is it? Like the ads say: It's not TV, it's HBO. I would like to write them a letter back but I'm not sure what I would say.

MGM suggests here that it holds copyright over several movies and television programs. Another question: If Dead Like Me aired on broadcast television, would it be illegal to reproduce it on a cassette tape or digitally? I've never heard of broadcast radio or television distributors having trouble with copyright violations, as their programming is presumably already free.

The letter also suggests that Cablevision is liable if it does not discontinue the user's account upon MGM's request, due to the fact Cablevision's service was used in the downloading. This is an important area where digital copyright differs from analog recording-the Supreme Court ruled years ago that Sony was not liable if users recorded programming illegally with their VCRs. Yesterday's court case involving Grokster is a step towards amending this, as the judge ruled that P2P software creators are not obliged to included policing software in their programming. If you follow the link, you can download an MP3 of the judge's ruling.

One thing is certain: "MGM believes that the entire Internet community benefits when these problems are solved cooperatively." So please, pile on.


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