Recording Industry’s File Sharing Complaints Don’t Hold Water

In an April 20 report, Rafael Fernandez, the Recording Industry Association of America’s VP of Latin music, declared: “We know that more than any other genre, Latin music is the most heavily pirated.”

The Big Four record labels’ RIAA claims P2P file sharing is wreaking havoc with sales, causing terrible hardships to workers and forcing it to drastically cut back on “artist development.”

The operative word in file sharing is, of course, “sharing.” In other words, nothing is bought or sold. No crime is committed. No money changes hand. And there is no evidence that sharing music and/or movies online has any kind of harmful impact on the sale of movies or music.

On the Rise

And yet, while the international organized criminal and crime gangs (the tech-savvy counterfeiters and duplicators who use commercial DVDs and CDs and packaging as templates) dance circles around the entertainment cartels, they’re instructing the MPAA and RIAA to sue their own customers, trying to force them into buying “product.”

Columbia Pictures, Disney, MGM, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Universal and Warner own the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) and MGM chairman and CEO Alex Yemenidjian says, “I think [the lawsuits] will be a major deterrent both to people currently [sharing files] and people who might be thinking of doing it in the future.”

Sony BMG, Warner, EMI and UMG own the RIAA, and the organization’s president Cary Sherman has said, “The lawsuits are a critical deterrent.”

The trouble is, nobody is deterred. In fact, file sharing is on the increase, as amply demonstrated by a number of recent academic and other studies. And contrary to Big Music protestations that it’s being devastated by file sharing and that sales are going down, it’s doing very nicely indeed — including in Latin America where, according to the IFPI, the “piracy” situation is desperate.

Making Sense

IFPI stands for International Federation of Phonographic Industry, another music label-organized and funded enforcement agency which in its most recent report, lists 2003 “Domestic Piracy” unit levels in Chile and Costa Rica at 20-25 percent, and Argentina and Brazil at 50 percent or more. And nearly half of all pirated music seized was the Latin genre, said Fernandez.

Yet, despite being “the most heavily pirated,” shipments of Latin music CDs to retail outlets rose by 23.6 percent in 2004, representing an 18.7 percent increase in value, according to annual RIAA data.

“Total Latin music shipments to retail jumped 25.6 percent — 48.5 million units in 2004 compared to 38.6 million in 2003,” it says. “That translates into a 21.6 percent growth in dollar value. Once again, DVD music videos enjoyed a successful year, experiencing a 278 percent gain in units shipped to retail and a 246 percent increase in dollar value compared to the previous year.”

Word Games

Once again? This isn’t recent, then?

The RIAA, IFPI and the other cartel-owned alphabet enforcement groups around the world never fail to speak of “piracy” and “file sharing” in the same breath as if they’re somehow related.

But what does “piracy” have to do with the very ordinary people (not a crook among them) who use P2P networks to share with each other?

Not a thing.

Jon Newton, a TechNewsWorld columnist, founded and runs, 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.


  • Mr. Newton: I used to d/l music and films until I realized one fundamental thing: if I take something which I don’t pay for, it is stealing. How many CDs and DVDs do you think I bought during that period, and how many movies do you think I rented if I could get them all for free? To believe that theft, or "sharing" as you put it, does not hurt individual small business owners, is to refuse to be in touch with reality. If you are the type to turn a blind eye to that kind of crime, what else do you turn of blind eye to? If so, what kind of citizen are you? And what kind of message do you think we are giving our kids by telling them this type of behavior is OK? Stealing is wrong. Period.

    • Your point is understandable. However, I feel with the recent advances of the internet and file sharing devices such as the iPOD, the music industry needs to re-align itself with a practice that will continue no matter what regulations nad punishments are made. As for music, how about a music service similar to Napster. Unfortunately this is the future in my opinion.

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