The future of Digital Music is not pay-per-use… the future is choice and convenience. Great news that Apple is making headway with iTunes but the reality is they just do not have the catalog that’s being made available by enthusiasts on free file sharing networks. The so-called amnesty program doesn’t indemnify downloaders against future suits and it’s fairly obvious that it’s nothing but an ill-conceived PR stunt.
Give people choice and freedom and they’ll pay. Try to sue your own frickin’ customers into oblivion and we’ll see you in bankruptcy.
—— http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story2&u=/washpost/20030909/ tc_washpost/a47297_2003sep9&e=1 RIAA vs. the People Tue Sep 9,11:06 AM ET
By Cynthia L. Webb, washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
The Recording Industry Association of America ( news -web sites )made good on its promise to prosecute Americans who engage in the illegal downloading and trading of pirated music, filing 261 copyright violation suits yesterday.
“Legal actions have been taken on a sporadic basis against operators of pirate servers or sites, but ordinary computer users have never before been at serious risk of liability for widespread behavior. The RIAA said that’s the point it’s underlining with the unprecedented legal action,” CNET’s News.com reported.
But in an editorial today, the San Jose Mercury News said the RIAA’s legal campaign is bad policy: “Suing your customers, as a long-term strategy, is dumb — even if they bring misfortune upon themselves. … The suits are the unfortunate, but predictable response of an industry that failed to see the Internet until it stared it in the face. Since Napster ( news -web sites ) first appeared four years ago and declared the death of the compact disc, music CD sales have fallen more than 25 percent. A generation of music fans don’t think twice about copyrights, which they associate with overpriced CDs and parasitic studio execs.”
According to the Mercury News editorial board, the music labels “won’t win back many of those customers until they make their full catalog of tunes easily accessible over the Internet, in formats that people want, at prices they’re willing to pay. That’s starting to happen — Apple Computer ‘s iTunes Music Store and BuyMusic.com are offering songs from 49 cents to $1 — but the offerings are limited. The music studios are still dragging their feet. For now, the big labels hope to scare people straight, particularly parents, since copyright owners can sue children for theft.”
The New York Times pointed out an even larger implication of the RIAA suits: “With the club of lawsuits and the olive branch of an amnesty program, the music industry is waging a campaign against online piracy that relies on both public relations and economics to attack the idea that everything in cyberspace can be free,” the article said. “That will not be easy. The Internet sprang from a research culture where information of all kinds was freely shared. That mentality still resonates with the millions of Internet users who routinely download music onto their computers. But the emphatic message of the music industry’s two-step program announced yesterday is that the days of plucking copyrighted songs off the Internet without paying for them are numbered.”
An Escalating Fight Against Ordinary People
Thousands more lawsuits against fileswappers are expected in the coming months as the RIAA looks to make examples of the worst digital pirates: People accused of downloading and sharing on average more than 1,000 illegally downloaded songs, thanks to Gnutella ( news -web sites ),Kazaa ,Grokster and other popular file-trading services.
The Washington Post said the “legal offensive aims to stem the tide of online song sharing launched by Napster in the late 1990s, and it is likely to strike fear into the hearts of parents who have not closely monitored their teenagers’ computer habits. That’s because the lawsuits were filed against the holders of Internet service accounts, regardless of who in the household was responsible for swapping the songs.”
The Los Angeles Times said the “cases — the first of thousands the labels expect to file in federal courts — mark a turning point in the music industry’s four-year battle against rampant piracy on the Internet. For the first time, the recording industry is training its considerable legal firepower on individuals, not the companies profiting from the public’s hunger for free music,” The Los Angeles Times said. “One quirk in the process, though, is that the defendants named aren’t necessarily the people using file-sharing networks. That’s because the Recording Industry Assn. of America’s investigation identified only the people whose Internet access accounts were being used to share files. They might be the parents, roommates or spouses of the alleged pirates.”
The RIAA suits hit the young and old and stretched across economic lines too. Among those sued is the Bassett family from Northern California. ” Scott Bassett said neither he nor his wife used the family PC in Redwood City, Calif., for music, but their teenagers and dozens of their friends do. Had he known what was going on, he said, ‘I would have pulled the plug,'” The Los Angeles Times reported, quoting the former junkyard operator who, like other targets of the suits, was confused about what to do. “Do I really need to hire a lawyer? Can I just call them up and say I’m sorry and give them back all the music that was downloaded? I’m just a little guy,” Bassett told the paper.
The Bassetts were darlings of the media yesterday, appearing in a number of articles, perhaps since they illustrated so nicely the ironic twist of the suits, which can target people who own the ISP accounts, not necessarily the file-swappers themselves. “I can’t believe this,” Vonnie Bassett , mother of a 17-year-old file-swapper, told The San Jose Mercury News. “To think I might actually have to pay money to these people. I think it’s the stupidest thing that the recording industry would do this.”
Lisa Schamis , a 26-year-old New Yorker, “said her Internet provider warned her two months ago that record industry lawyers had asked for her name and address, but she said she had no idea she might be sued. She acknowledged downloading ‘lots’ of music over file-sharing networks,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. “This is ridiculous,” Schamis said. “People like me who did this, I didn’t understand it was illegal.” Neither did Nancy Davis , a Sanol, Calif. schoolbus driver. “From what I understood — and I’m not the most computer-savvy person in the world — I thought it was becoming legal,” Davis told The San Francisco Chronicle. “I’m completely shocked by the whole thing,” Heather McGough , a single mom of two children from Santa Clarita, Calif., told The Los Angeles Times. She “figured that the music-sharing services that survived after Napster was shut down must be legal. She said she let a friend install a program for the Kazaa file-sharing network on her computer so that she could listen to music — songs she already owned on CDs — while she worked.”
Paying the Piper
So what’s in store for those snared in the RIAA lawsuits? “The RIAA suits seek an injunction to stop the defendants’ file sharing, as well as damages and court costs. Copyright law allows for damages of up to $150,000 per infringement — in other words, per swapped song,” The Washington Post noted. More from The Boston Globe: “Accusing the defendants of copyright infringement, the music association is requesting statutory damages of $750 to $150,000 for each song, bringing the potential liability of some file-sharers into the millions of dollars.”
“Individuals, I’m sure no matter who they are, simply don’t have that kind of money,” Atlanta attorney Doug Isenberg , who specializes in Internet law, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “And there’s no way possible the RIAA can sue even a meaningful number of people, because there are tens of millions of potential defendants.”
Perhaps some good news for those being sued: The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the “RIAA has been settling for less: Yesterday, it announced $3,000 agreements with fewer than 10 people whose Internet service providers had received subpoenas.”
RIAA President Cary Sherman told The Los Angeles Times “he would welcome cases going to trial because it would help establish for the public that file sharing is illegal. The proceeds from any trials or settlements will be kept by the RIAA to cover the cost of its anti-piracy campaigns, he said, rather than being used to compensate labels and artists. Several lawyers warned that the RIAA’s amnesty offer may be a bad deal. Those who apply for amnesty from the RIAA must confess their past transgressions, but that won’t protect them from being pursued by music publishers, independent labels or even federal prosecutors.” The RIAA is offering amnesty to those who admitted to file-swapping, erase their digital libraries of songs and sign a notarized promise not to do it again.
Criticism From the Usual Suspects
Critics of the RIAA’s move were vocal in their objections to yesterday’s developments. The Electronic Frontier Foundation clearly hates the idea of the lawsuits. “Does anyone think that suing 60 million American file-sharers is going to motivate them to buy more CDs?,” EFF Staff Attorney Wendy Seltzer asked in a statement . “File sharing networks represent the greatest library of music in history, and music fans would be happy to pay for access to it, if only the recording industry would let them.”
Bill Evans , founder of Boycott-RIAA.com , told The Baltimore Sun that the lawsuits amount to a witch hunt. “They are trying to intimidate people and to stop file-sharing because they can’t control it,” Evans said. “If that’s the case, we believe they should take over a portion of the market and make it more affordable to people.”
Elan Oren , chief executive of file-sharing site iMesh , told The New York Times that “rather than filing huge lawsuits, record labels should work with file-sharing services to devise a method of compensation in exchange for legally distributing their music over the peer-to-peer networks. But record companies say creating a compensation system for file sharing — for instance, imposing a tax that could be redistributed to copyright holders — would be extremely difficult.”
“Michael McGuire , research director at the GartnerG2 research firm, said the threat of legal action needs to be just one part of a more widespread effort by the recording industry to deal with illegal Internet music swapping,” The Chicago Tribune said. “Are hard-core traders going to see the light and see the error of their ways?” McGuire told the paper. “I don’t think so.”
RIAA Strategy Paying Off
The music industry’s tactics, while controversial, have made a dent to some file-swapping. “Still, there is little agreement about whether the industry’s tactics are having much impact on music piracy. The recording industry has cited data from research firm NPD Group that estimated the number of households downloading music from the Internet declined 28% to 10.4 million in June from 14.5 million in April, around the time music companies began publicizing a campaign to target individual file sharers. Music companies have also been trying to wean music fans off file-sharing programs by licensing their songs to commercial music sites like Apple Computer Inc.’s Music Store,” The Wall Street Journal reported. “But services like Morpheus, LimeWire and Grokster all report that usage of their services has grown, especially as students have returned from vacation.”
But the music industry has a long way to go before it stamps out piracy. “From the rise of Napster until today, tens of millions of people have started trading songs, movies and software online through services such as Kazaa with little thought for the legality of their actions,” News.com noted. “Even as the threat of Monday’s lawsuits loomed, more than 2.8 million copies of the Kazaa software were downloaded last week, according to Download.com , a software aggregation site operated by CNET News.com publisher CNET Networks . Indeed, a recent study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 67 percent of people downloading music said they did not care whether the music was copyrighted or not.”
The Future of E-Music?
Apple’s iTunes is being held up as a successful, legal alternative to secret file-swapping. The pay-for-play service has been a hit with music fans and everyone from Sony to Microsoft is looking for a comparable match to compete with the service. Apple’s service has sold 10 million songs since its launch in May. “Legally selling 10 million songs online in just four months is a historic milestone for the music industry, musicians and music lovers everywhere,” Apple head Steve Jobs ( news -web sites )said, according to BBC News Online, which noted (how ironic, in light of the complications of the RIAA’s legal suits) that the 10 millionth song sold on the service was “Complicated,” by Avril Lavigne .