Why is the RIAA Going After the “Pirates”?

This post originally appeared at here on 2003.08.10.

English: Compact Disc player carousel for thre...
English: Compact Disc player carousel for three CDs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One needs little filling in on this issue. It is now common knowledge that the RIAA is no longer going after the “Napster”-like entities. The reason is that they can’t. This article is about why.

First of all, the legal stuff. The RIAA must prove a few things to win such cases. At best, they can only plea a case of “Contributory Copyright Infringement”. This is because it is the service that such entities provide do not in and of themselves actually distribute the material. They do, however, provide lists of users who obviously do, some actually maintain central databases, most offer software and they have to be aware of what their users are doing. All of this makes it difficult to prove in court. Especially since our judicial system insist that a case be presented in the most favorable light for the defendant.

What the RIAA must prove goes beyond that. They must also prove that the artist they are so diligently protecting was actually damaged. This makes it a tough win for the RIAA. They do win some and they do fail at some here. It also cost them money for these service providers can afford and do hire attorneys.

So what is the noble RIAA gonna do? Well first of all they try and slap a clause which would allow them to find such software and files and delete them. They did in fact try to attach this to the Anti-terrorism Bill. Here they failed. For this I am thankful, I hear enough horror stories about law enforcement agencies violating individual rights and they are trained “not” too. Imagine a private entity being given the authority to actually delete files and software on an individual’s computer. And, of course, the noble giant attaches it to an anti-terrorist bill. Yeah, they look good…

Well what is next? Now they are subpoenaing internet service providers for list of their subscribers who download a substantial amount of music from the internet. Now the internet providers, of course, are arguing against this. Again, win some lose some goes on here. Again it cost them a good dollar. But now they can get to the individual pirates.

After all they legally have the right too, most of them are kids and college students who can hardly afford to fight them in the courts like service providers can. So it is an easy and effective target. It is likely to put fear into the public. Most of the kids, have to settle. The first victim was forced to settle by forfeiting most of his life’s savings. Now granted he was doing something illegal, but what ever happened to letting a first time offender off easy? That is not what the RIAA wants. They want to scare us into only buying overpriced CD’s.

The real reason behind all of this is because the RIAA failed to make the technological switch to the internet. This is really the root cause of the problem. I am old enough to remember similar controversy over cassette tapes. Turned out that more pre-recorded cassettes ended up being sold than vinyl LP’s, and pre-recorded cassettes quickly out sold blank ones as well.

I know that pre-recorded cassettes do sound better than home recorded ones so there is much logic to buying a pre-recorded cassette vs. an LP. When cassettes were about eight dollars a pop I bought quite legally, nearly a thousand of them. Then came the CD and of course the quality was even better.

Its audio quality was even better, granted. But did I switch to CD’s, well at first I did. I thought that the prices would come down. We all know what happened there. They didn’t and, in fact climbed. Besides, have you ever tried to listen to a CD player while jogging? I stuck with the cassette for both cost and distance running. I still have far fewer CD’s than cassettes. Most of them came from those “infringing” used record stores, which exist only because CD prices are so high. One would think that the RIAA would get wise and adapt. No, instead they think that those used shops should pay royalties again and even lobbied to make used CD sale illegal. Does this mean that the used car lots are going to start having to give the automobile companies R&D money?

Instead they feel the appropriate thing to do is to use Gestapo-like tactics to induce fear into everyone. Now mp3’s are cheap and I am willing to bet that most consumers would pay a buck a song. I know I would and isn’t that what Apple is doing? I think the going rate for an “iTune” is 99 cents. I wonder if the RIAA is going to sue Apple?

The real cause of all this is obvious. The real “why” to all this is simple. Cd’s are quickly becoming obsolete. The technology has improved. My five disc CD player is now a dust collector for good reason. All my CD’s are on my hard drive, they are categorized searchable and I can even copy my old cassettes to it. Why do I, being an inherently lazy person, want to change my CD’s every fifth album? Why do I want to reprogram my Technics player every five CD’s to hear the songs in the order I wish? The answer is I don’t. Even when the 5 disc player was all I had, I would make a play list and then make a cassette to play for simplicity’s sake plus I could take one cassette jogging and not ten CDs.

I also doubt that any other consumer out there wishes to either. I say kudos to Apple and Sony for leading the logical charge and pleasing the consumer. They have decided to adapt to the consumer’s demands instead of trying to scare them into sticking with outdated over priced technology. The RIAA is just being foolish trying to force Americans (since that is who they are suing) to do anything other than what is natural to them. Heck, when we didn’t like the tax on the tea we tossed in the harbor and drank coffee. I don’t think that was legal at the time now was it?

It will be interesting to see what happens with all of this in the courts but to me it matters not. My plans are to buy an MP3 compatible cell phone, have another cup of coffee, join iTune and legally adjust to the times. Maybe if the RIAA stops there antics and gets with the times I will end my boycott of them and buy a few of their artists songs. Lord knows Metallica sure could use those 15 cents of every dollar that the industry gives them. Now I am getting a better understanding as to why the RIAA website has been hacked 6 times in the last 6 months. They do not have a clue about the technology around them.

The other clue the RIAA is not getting is that the people who they wish to scare are not scared. They are livid, boycotting and rising up. Personally, I cared not two bits about this controversy until I heard about their efforts to search every server for MP3s and then issue subpoenas. Hey RIAA, read the Constitution. That is not legal. MP3s are not illegal, and how can you issue a subpoena before you know that the stuff is infringed material. Not to mention they don’t even know what court to file in… hehe

The bottom line of why is because the RIAA is trying to tell the American people what they can buy. We are not going to buy a CD for twenty dollars which cost pennies to make when we can get a song in a more manageable and portable media format for a buck! We demand convenience. Why would I carry CDs and a player when I can get a player that is a phone as well? Why not take some of that litigation money and set up a secure site and sell me a song for a buck? We don’t want free music. We just won’t mortgage our house to buy more overpriced CDs. Wake up and smell the coffee already!