Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit remanded a lower court’s decision and awarded the Recording Industry Association of America $222,000 in damages from Jammie Thomas-Rasset, who the courts found to have lied about illegally uploading music to the internet.
Thomas-Rasset was accused by the RIAA of sharing 1700 copyrighted songs back in 2007, but the number was eventually brought down to 24 songs. For which, she is being fined $9,250 a song.
While sharing copyrighted music through the Internet is illegal, it’s also a problem that’s nigh-impossible to combat, with some estimates saying that almost 65 percent of all music acquired in the United States is done without paying. Yet the statistic that the RIAA is ignoring in their quest to make housewives pay for sharing “Bills, Bills, Bills” is of that 65 percent, only around 30 percent is actually acquired from online peer-to- peer sources. The other 70 percent comes from the exchange of offline swapping of music, be it hard drive sharing or burning discs for friends.
So does that mean that next the RIAA is going to stop you from giving your friends a flash drive with the new Mumford and Sons album, or burning them a mix CD of music they haven’t listened to? Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised.
Now the RIAA oftentimes likes to decry pirating and sharing of music and shout about how it negatively impacts the artist, though frequently the people who are willing to download an artist’s entire discography are also willing to spend $30 on a ticket or maybe even another $30 on a shirt, but that’s neither here nor there.
If the RIAA genuinely cared about the artists, they’d be overjoyed that people care enough to risk the law (and the RIAA’s ire) to download a new album and to share it among their friends. Instead, they’re concerned with their own money, a lot of which they’re blowing to combat an issue that is never going away.
The greatest failing of the RIAA was that when the business climate changed, they continued to cling to the old ways and began making enemies out of anyone who they could blame for their loss of revenue, calling those who shared music “bad customers.” The RIAA squandered the opportunity to continue providing music to the people, instead allowing tech companies to step up and provide music. Remember, Apple had long since lost the operating system war when they decided they wanted to become synonymous with MP3 players and created the only music library software the majority of people use. The RIAA is nothing more than a business that lost out and is blaming others for its own failures.
The RIAA wasn’t the only industry to fall into this problem, with Hollywood spending time focusing on what would be the next home video medium, Blu-ray or HD-DVD (remember those?), realizing too late that it was digital downloads and Netflix. Of course, the Motion Pictures Association of America back in the day also tried to ban VCRs for being an evil tool of piracy, so forgive them for not knowing better.
The RIAA and others are currently dying out by viewing the world as static and unable to cope with change. Copyright infringement hurts the business only if you are unwilling to adapt to the world, and many Internet start-ups, tech companies and bands have shown a willingness to change in this new business model. So change or die RIAA.