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Tuesday, May 13, 2003

RIAA apologizes for threatening letter

The Chromatics song that triggered the RIAA's cease-and-desist letter:

Their music is great. Acappella songs about physics and stuff, a definate must-listen


By Declan McCullagh
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
May 12, 2003, 3:16 PM PT

WASHINGTON--The Recording Industry Association of America apologized Monday
to Penn State University for sending an incorrect legal notice of alleged
Internet copyright violations.

The notice and subsequent apology appears to be the first time a faulty
incorrect notification has been made public. The incident also shows just
how easily automated programs that search for copyrighted material can be
fooled, as well how disruptive such notices can be on college campuses.

Last Thursday, the RIAA sent a stiff copyright warning to Penn State's
department of astronomy and astrophysics. Department officials at first
were puzzled because the notification invoked the Digital Millennium
Copyright Act and alleged that an FTP site was unlawfully distributing
songs by the musician Usher. The letter demanded that the department
"remove the site" and delete the infringing sound files.

But no such files existed on the server, which is used by faculty and
graduate students to publish research and grant proposals. Matt Soccio, the
department's system administrator, said that he searched the FTP server
"for files ending in mp3, wma, ogg, wav, mov, mpg, etc., and found nothing
that would precipitate this complaint."

Except, that is, when Soccio realized two things. The department has on its
faculty a professor emeritus named Peter Usher and the same FTP site hosted
Usher's work on radio-selected quasars. The site also had a copy of an a
capella song performed by astronomers about the Swift gamma ray satellite,
which Penn State helped to design.

The combination of the word "Usher" and the suffix "mp3" had triggered the
RIAA's automated copyright crawlers.

[...remainder snipped...]

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