Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The RIAA is Like the Mob. Only Less Endearing and With More Money

For the last several years the Recording Industry Association of America (or RIAA), which is the lobbying arm of the World's four largest music labels, has engaged in a strategy to combat online music piracy that boils down to suing alleged copyright violators into oblivion in hopes that they settle out of court. The RIAA's tactics for bringing a lawsuit against a music 'pirate' are as shady as they come; including filing cases as civil actions (where the burden of proof is far lower than a criminal proceeding), and filing motions in the state where the defendant's ISP is based (and most likely doesn't reside. Making it difficult for he/she to even know they have been sued) . As if this wasn't deplorable enough, the RIAA is now being accused of outright intimidation and coercion by one defendant who was interviewed on Public Radio International's Marketplace.

Listen to the interview and you will hear stories about threatening phone calls, invasions of privacy and scare tactics employed by the RIAA's legal minions in order to coerce their victims. . .er, I mean defendants. . .into settling out of court. It all sounds like something the mob would do to collect on a debt and I was half expecting to hear the interviewee say an RIAA lawyer threatened to make her "sleep with the fishes" unless she cooperated.

But all kidding aside, it seems like the RIAA is losing touch with reality more and more as each day passes. The recording industry so desperately wants to hold on to their outdated revenue model (the one that gouged consumers with high CD prices and music artists with unfair royalty splits) that they will stoop to unprecedented legal shenanigans rather than innovate and adapt to the new era of music distribution. While they were sitting on their asses living off the fat of the land (which was largely aided by the slow transition from cassette tapes to CD's) the world changed and technology gave some of the power back to the people. Innovative people across the world have learned that you can distribute music to a wide audience without the need for a large corporate middle man and many people have even enjoyed worldwide fame without the help of a major label, commercial radio or MTV. The more the RIAA antagonizes its consumers with harassing lawsuits the more backlash they risk and the more likely it becomes that even less people will stop buying their products. As this continues, more and more artists will flock away from the major labels and see that self-promotion and self-distribution is a more viable option, thus rendering the major labels irrelevant. For mine and every other music lover's sake I hope that day comes very soon.

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