RIAA to offer amnesty program

According to an article from Wired, the RIAA (the recording industry's "enforcement arm") is preparing an amnesty program for music pirates.

If you have downloaded music and have not already had your information subpoenaed by the RIAA, you can sign an agreement saying that you have deleted your illegal booty and will be good in the future in return for absolution from your past sins.

So, why this sudden interest in reconciliation and should you sign it?

The short answer on should you sign it is a definite probably not. I'm not a lawyer (and I don't play one on TV), but it seems that the RIAA already has their sights on about as many people as they can reasonably sue at one time. If you are on that list, you are a priori disqualified from this rumored program and thus it is irrelevant to you. If, on the other hand, you aren't on their list, the likelihood of them finding you is very small. Just stop illegally accumulating music, toss out the stuff you got that way and you are probably OK. (They don't have permanent copies of your hard drive, yet).

So, if they can't find you easily and you aren't eligible for the program if you are already in their sights, why do they want you to sign a notarized copy of this agreement?

Assuming for the moment that this plan, as reported, isn't a hoax (although it is more likely a trial balloon-style leak than a hoax), there are a few probable answers:

  • The RIAA needs proof of file sharing abuses

Whenever the RIAA complains about the widespread use of peer-to-peer file sharing as a copyright infringement technique, they are hampered by people doubting their claims. A few hundred thousand notarized pages saying that they used peer-to-peer technologies to illegally copy material would be a good chunk of evidence for them

  • Evidence against the P2P software manufacturers

So far, RIAA suits against the manufacturers of P2P file sharing software have been mixed. The more tailored the software is to the copying of music, the more likely that the RIAA is to win their case. However, if they suddenly had a bevy of evidence that Kazaa was used for copying music, they could present this in court as part of a DMCA claim that the technology was being used to facilitate the theft of copyrighted works, which would bolster their case.