OPINION

Big-Four Fight Gaining Ground, Slowly but Surely

The Patti Santangelo Fight Goliath campaign was officially launched about four months ago and since then, it’s raised an impressive $13,140.21.

Santangelo is the New York mother of five targeted by the Big Four record labels’ Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Actually, there’s very little “American” content, figuratively or literally, involved when it comes to the RIAA. For all intents and purposes, it’s owned and operated by Vivendi Universal, the world’s most powerful record label group which is based in France; Sony BMG (Japan and Germany) of rootkit spyware fame; EMI (Great Britain); and Warner Music, which is the only U.S. label among the organization’s Big Four members.

Unfair Odds

So, in fact, Santangelo is being sued not by the RIAA, but by a vast, profit-obsessed, multi-billion-dollar international corporate cartel with zero scruples and absolutely no respect or concern for its own customers.

Moreover, she doesn’t have teams of highly paid lawyers behind her. She’s represented by one man, Jordan Glass, who works out of his house, not from a plush law practice with associates to do the grunt work. Helped to an extent by Patti, who has no legal training, he has to do that himself. All of it. And he has to put the paperwork together, which doesn’t leave any extra time.

Patti’s daughter Michelle, 19, and Patti were recently grilled by music industry lawyers. So were her sons Bobby, 15, and Ryan, 7. It’s called being “deposed.”

Michelle was 16 when the RIAA first glommed onto her, and Bobby was 12. The RIAA also wants to go after Robert Santangelo, Patti’s ex-husband, and Nicole, now 17, but who was only 14 when the RIAA first showed up. No doubt they’ll soon be wanting a chat with Jack, who’s 10.

The only reason they haven’t latched onto Robert senior, with whom Patti remains on good terms, is because he’s just undergone a liver transplant.

For a while, it seemed a donor couldn’t be found and a couple of weeks back, what with the upcoming civil court trial, Patti was very, very depressed.

People With Money

It’s a given that the law acts for people with money. Ordinary people have to look after themselves as best they can, something Sony BMG, EMI, Vivendi Universal and Warner Music count on.

That’s why every one of the more than 18,000 U.S. citizens — young children included — singled out for special attention is an ordinary person without legal or financial resources, and who’s therefore unable to even begin to compete with the labels with their bottomless pockets and legions of lawyers.

Commercial law firms won’t even look at the cases without a hefty retainer. Ask any of the other Big Music victims. So it’s left to attorneys such Jordan Glass to try to balance the so-called scales of justice. And people like him are thin on the ground.

Patti, however, says she’s hanging in no matter what, and even if, by some grotesque travesty, she loses, she’ll continue her fight against the Big Four.

Meanwhile, the RIAA is doing its best to kill Glass’ efforts by snowing him under with documentation.

A favorite RIAA tactic is to serve massive written discovery demands, although it’s, “none too eager to respond to written discovery requests which the defendants themselves serve on the RIAA,” as Patti’s ex-lawyer, Ray Beckerman, points out, going on that in Patti’s case, “the RIAA has served lengthy objections on both the interrogatories and the document requests which Patricia Santangelo’s lawyer served upon them.”

Tricky Tactics

In other words, if you know you can’t beat them, pile so much paperwork on them that they can’t possibly respond within the time constraints imposed by the courts. That’s what you hope, if you’re the RIAA.

Justice is supposed to be blind, meaning under the law, everyone is supposedly equal. But we all know that’s about as likely as recent Big Four claims that they care about families.

That was yesterday. Today, we have the Net and the word is out.

Ordinary people now routinely talk to other ordinary people and en masse, and they’re back in the driving seat.

The labels claim file sharing has been costing them money. They say a file downloaded equals a sale lost. But this has never been shown to be true. Not even nearly.

Meanwhile, more and more people are communicating through blogs and news sites and e-mail, and this is in turn forcing the mainstream media, largely owned by the entertainment cartels, to give coverage to the sue ’em all scandal.

P2P equals “People Power,” and because of it, soon, it really will mean major Big Four bottom line losses. Those losses won’t be the result of “theft,” however, as the labels disingenuously call downloads. They’ll result because critical mass has been reached and enough people will have stopped buying Big Music “product” that the effect will be reflected in sales figures.

A Little Respect

It doesn’t have to be that way, though.

All the labels really have to do to prevent this is fully open their catalogs, lower wholesale prices so the desperately struggling corporate sites can charge reasonable amounts for downloads, and start treating their customers like human beings instead of cash-cow targets.

Yes, the labels will have to compete fairly in open markets, something they’ve never had to do before. That’ll mean innovation will thrive, again, and new artists will get their chance, again, and music will be free again, as in untrammeled.

Meanwhile, the Fight Goliath campaign isn’t all about Patti. It’s about freedom of choice between something one wants and something one doesn’t want, without fear of reprisal from some giant, soulless record label; and, to guard against seeing one’s self and one’s kids become helpless victims at the hands of the RIAA.


Jon Newton, a TechNewsWorld columnist, founded and runs p2pnet.net, based in Canada, a daily peer-to-peer and digital media news site focused on issues surrounding file sharing, the entertainment industry and distributed computing.


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