Technology

RIAA Threatens, File-Trading Grows

Having won a U.S. Supreme Court ruling against peer-to-peer (P2P) operators running unlicensed file-sharing networks, namely the once-popular Grokster, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has sent cease-and-desist letters to seven more P2P outfits in the U.S.

However, online music industry experts indicate that despite its court victories, the RIAA is having no negative effect on illegal file-sharing, which has grown more than two and a half times since the recording industry group began filing lawsuits against individual file-traders two years ago.

Yankee Group senior analyst Mike Goodman, said the RIAA’s efforts actually tend to publicize and promote unlicensed file-trading of music online, which jumps by thousands of users every time the issue is in the news.

“You mean the P2P marketing campaign,” he called it in an interview with TechNewsWorld. “Every time they have a press release or there’s news about it, the number of P2P users grows.”

Stop Already

The RIAA has loudly fought the growth and proliferation of P2P networks, from the first suits that brought down the original, unlicensed Napster to individual lawsuits against alleged illegal file-traders. After a court loss late last year on its blanket subpoenas to Internet service providers (ISPs) to give up supposed copyright infringers, the RIAA finally scored a win this year from the Supreme Court, which ruled in June that while P2P technology itself is not illegal, some behaviors by operators encouraging free file-trading was.

With that court ruling in hand, the RIAA most recently sent cease-and-desist letters to seven other P2P operators, warning those businesses that they were in violation of the ruling. The organization did not respond for comment. Some of the recipients reportedly included LimeWire, BearShare and WinMX.

Explosive Growth

Goodman said the RIAA court win has had “zero-effect” on the growth of P2P users, which grew from 3.8 million average users per month when the RIAA suits began in 2003, to 9.5 million in August 2005.

“It just keeps going up,” he said, adding that the RIAA’s court cases have not been the reason for the increase in legitimate online music services, either.

The analyst, who called the growth in P2P “explosive,” observed that the RIAA strategy was like chasing cockroaches that scatter from the light, stressing that for each P2P network targeted, there are ample more to step up and bring on more users.

“It doesn’t go away, it just shifts, and every time it shifts, it gets bigger,” Goodman said.

Managing Jell-O

Gartner research director Mike McGuire told TechNewsWorld a similar story, noting that the focus on Grokster, LimeWire or any other P2P application changes regularly.

“They appear to be moving a lot of traffic off to other protocols,” he said, adding that eDonkey is the latest, most popular P2P.

McGuire, who said the companies promoting better copyright control have good reason to want content protection, indicated that some parts of the music label industry are realizing the need to leverage the technology and architecture of P2Ps, rather than resist them.

However, the majority of the industry continues its legal-PR campaign to pursue P2P operators and users, a tactic for which McGuire also had an analogy.

“It seems to be like trying to manage Jell-O,” he said.

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