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Big Music’s Ambitions

Last Thursday the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) boasted it had launched another 717 lawsuits against people who share music online, bringing the total number of those victimized to a shocking 8,423. By the weekend, however, Google had indexed a only a handful of links on the story, which didn’t even rate a headline on the main news page.

Is it that no one cares that Big Music is raging through America in a hopeless effort to sue people into buying “product,” as it correctly tags the formulaic tunes it churns out by the millions?

The RIAA is wholly owned by the Big Four record labels, who controlled what the world heard and bought — until the Net came along, bringing freedom of choice and reintroducing the archaic notion that the customer is always right.

Big Music Bullies

The cartel is nailing university students, school kids, moms, pops and grandparents in America, but of the big four labels only Warner is American. The others are from Japan and Germany (Sony BMG), France (UMG) and Britain (EMI).

Big Music tries to claim that a download equals a lost sale and that file sharing is theft. But MP3s aren’t exchanged for money, and it’s never been vaguely demonstrated, let alone proven, that a download represents one or 10 or 1,000 lost sales.

Britain’s The Economist has lambasted the music industry for failing to acknowledge the new, digital era in which the old business models based on physical sales don’t work. Academic studies in the U.S. and Canada have made it plain that Big Music’s “sue ’em all” campaign just isn’t happening.

Of the 8,423 file sharers pilloried so far, not one has been proven guilty of anything. Nor has it been shown in a court of law that sharing music online is a crime. That’s because those held up by the music industry as hardened criminals are in fact ordinary people who can’t afford to stand up to the industry’s teams of highly paid lawyers.

The labels always make its victims an offer: Settle out of court and we’ll go away. And the victims always settle. They can’t do otherwise, and this suits the labels. The RIAA can imply it’s successfully sued close to 8,500 people for the crime of violating copyrights.

In fact, it’s not a crime. “Infringe,” not “violate,” is the accurate term, and “infringe” doesn’t convey the sense of criminality.

Jane and John Doe would gladly pay any reasonable amount for online music they could play on their mobiles or in their cars. But the labels are interested in marketing only heavily compressed, low-fidelity MP3 copies of original CD tracks. These are worth only a few cents, not the $1 per download being charged.

The record labels were once in complete control. But not anymore.

P2P is here to stay. The sooner the people who run the companies accept that, the better for them, the better for their shareholders and the better for consumers, who will return to the fold as soon as the cartel acts on the reality that this is the digital 21st century and not the physical 1970s.

Plenty of Power

They’ll have lost the control they once had, but given their enormous political and financial resources, they’ll still be at the top of the corporate ant hill.

They’ve succeeded in turning a substantial number of American universities into sales and marketing divisions with senior staff acting as willing and unpaid assistants.

Police forces and other law enforcement agencies around the world now routinely put aside matters of national importance to look after Big Music’s interests.

Politicians accept money to act for it. School teachers are scammed into “educating” even the youngest children according to the labels’ desires.

Surely that’s enough?


Jon Newton, a TechNewsWorld columnist, founded and runs p2pnet.net, a daily peer-to-peer and digital media news site focused on issues surrounding file sharing, the entertainment industry and distributed computing. P2pnet is based in Canada, where sharing music online is legal.


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