Yes, the Supreme Court kept downloading music legal

From the confused, chastising nerd department…

A story published last week on RT America managed to generate a fair share of feedback regarding the content, as the matter at hand, downloading music, is something that most people with an Internet connection have done at one time or another. An article published on October 4 titled “Supreme Court legalizes downloading music” was met with responses from all corners of the Internet, but one particularly peeved reader, Tech Dirt’s Mike Masnick, took to his own site with a dare-to-be-daunting diatribe that aimed to be both scathing and scolding. Unfortunately for Mr Masnick, his retort fell short of actually bringing up a real point against our own piece.

To fail short would be an understatement. Rather, it seems that Mr Masnik’s attempt to discredit our content only exposed that he either did not make it through the story at all or has the reading comprehension skills or a prehensile-tailed primate.

Masnik opens up his article by reminding his readers that the Supreme Court decided to allow an appeals court ruling that a digital download of a song did not necessitate extra royalty fees that would apply to a tune for constituting a public performance. The author attempts to attack us by writing to his readers, “the Supreme Court didn’t do anything other than refuse to hear the appeal of ASCAP, allowing the Second Circuit case to stand.”

That, Mr Masnik, is indeed a fact. So factual is that fact that, yes, we included it in our story as well. Especially since that is the story.

As per RT’s article:

“The United State Supreme Court has refused an appeal that would have made downloading music an infringement of federal copyright law. Take that, Metallica! The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, or ASCAP, had been attempting to appeal to the Supreme Court an early ruling by an appeals court in New York that said that a downloaded song constituted a public performance of the song under federal copyright law.”

We go on, of course, to discuss the initial ruling and comment that the Supreme Court did not even want to hear the case. Since the Supreme Court did not rule anything, we carried the same information that the few other outlets that published similar stories did. We discussed a comment that US Solicitor General Donald Verrilli offered to Reuters, we discussed ASCAP’s ongoing battle with the case and we even included a shot of metal icon James Hetfield, as RT will never forget the jerks in Metallica for suing their own fans for sharing music over a decade ago. What jokers, right?

Adds Masnik, “Nothing in the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the appeal indicates a change to any law, let alone something as crazy as ‘legalizing downloading music.’Second, the opening sentence is also completely bogus. Downloading music is already an infringement of federal copyright law. Nothing in this case would change that one way or the other.”

At this point we realized that not only did the author attack us for something he sadly misunderstood, but Mr Masnik is also under the impression that downloading music is a crime. Weird. The immensely profitable business model that iTunes has incorporated in recent years has brought major profits to the industry — legally, mind you — not to mention that an outstanding number of artists offer up there music for download for free, every minute of every day. We discussed that for those that do want compensation for their music, they apply to ASCAP, who does a darn good job at making sure their clients get paid. If somebody has to check their facts over what a crime is and what isn’t, it isn’t us.

The author goes on to write that “Nothing in this is about legalizing (or illegalizing) downloads. Services already pay licensing rights to distribute a copy of a file. The question is whether or not they had to pay even more, if downloading also constituted a ‘public performance,’ which is covered by a different right under copyright law.”

Yes, yes, yes. We got it. That, of course, is why we wrote it. Did our headline throw you off? On behalf of all of RT, we apologize for not constructing a more informative headline such as “Supreme Court decides not to decide over a copyright case involving additional royalty fees for downloaded songs.” We could have done that, but would that say anything to anybody? Probably not. The only thing we will say sorry for us writing a headline that actually reflects what is going on with the case — and for you to attack us after being inexplicitly perturbed because of it is just a tad bit silly.

What did the Supreme Court do to this case? Nothing. Rather, they let stand a ruling that, as you point out, says downloading songs does not necessitate royalty fees that come with public performances. If downloading Metallica’s St Anger album (we recommend you don’t) was done with public performance fees in place, that download would necessitate a service fee from the guilty party under federal copyright law. Thus, downloading a song and not paying that additional fee would be illegal and a violation of that law. ASCAP wanted it that way and the Supreme Court said no. Now, we don’t want to say that the opposite of “illegal” is “legal” so we won’t. But we will say that we stand by everything we wrote, including the title which managed to grab your attention.

Anyway, thanks for reading. Now don’t you have to blog a tribute to Steve Jobs like all the other nerds are doing or something?

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