Trapped in time

Mikey 2 comments
  • Privacy
Trapped in time

In a bold move, the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) has recently filed lawsuits against 216 individuals (including a 12 year old girl) who have downloaded music using popular peer to peer software such as Kazaa and Limewire. These are not companies being sued - but just normal individuals like you and me. The blame for this level of piracy has been assigned to many parties over the recent years, all of which have been too difficult to pursue for many reasons. There have been many thwarted attempts to blame the software manufacturers, but none of them have held up in court simply because the software is legitimate, and it is the users who are abusing the privilege. This relates back to my previous article which talks about the blame game in a different context. But in a nutshell, you can not blame Smith and Wesson every time someone gets shot by a gun.

So now it appears that after much litigation and several court orders to force ISP's to betray their users privacy, the RIAA has compiled a list of frequent offenders, who are people that have made in excess of 1000 mp3's available to the public for download. Originally this list was a lot more than 216 people long. In fact, the number was so high that it was calculated that with the current law preceding system in place, they would be in court way beyond the year 3000 until they could prosecute every one on their list. This slight oversight has led to the RIAA publishing an online amnesty web site. The site states that it will not sue you if you promise (by filling in an online form) not to download or share any illegally obtained music again. You also have to delete all your existing mp3's, CD's and any other illegally obtained data. The 216 people who were subpoenaed were of course not eligible for the amnesty agreement. What many people are not realising is that apart from incriminating themselves when signing the agreement, they are also leaving themselves right open to be sued by the copyright owners of the music they have downloaded. But that is an entirely different matter which I might dwell on some time in the future.

Now it's time to assign some blame ourselves. So apart from the convenience factor that peer to peer software offers everybody, and many misinformed individuals believing that they were not doing anything wrong, why are an estimated 57,000,000 people downloading music rather than purchasing it legitimately? I think the RIAA is partly responsible themselves. Let's analyse it step by step.

1) Despite advances in computer and recording technology over recent years, the RIAA still refuses to acknowledge the consumers request for 'choice'. That is, the ability for anyone to walk into a music store, pick and pay for only the songs they want, and have the store clerk burn them to a CD. After all, I like a couple of songs on the Chilli Pepper's album, but there is no way in the world I am going to pay $30 for an album with 2 good songs and 10 crap ones.

2) While on the subject of price, the RIAA should take a close look at its pricing structure. I give you this example: I can buy the Gladiator DVD 2 disc set, complete with full widescreen format movie, hours of special features, deleted scenes, directors' commentary, and complete movie sound track, all for $32.99. However, if I walked into a music store to buy the soundtrack, I would be paying $29.99. What incentive, if any, do I have to buy the music CD? None that I can see.

3) There is the availability/accessibility issue. The Mac community has surprising beat the PC community by offering music to download from their I-tunes web site. That's any song you want for a measly .99 US cents each. There is a Windows version coming soon, but the project has been running for a few months now and recently they sold their 10 millionth mp3 online, proving that there certainly is a market for people wanting to purchase their music online. There are several other music sites popping up now offering downloadable music at ridiculously low prices. The movie and television industries have both embraced the technology to further their businesses because they realise the online demand is there. Why does the music industry not adopt this approach? If they spent less time and money in court pleading 'lost earnings for music artists' and more into catering for the consumers needs, they might be at the same stage as I-tunes by now. (Interesting side note: Music sales have not dropped since the online file-swapping community began, and in most incidences actually caused more sales. The RIAA have never commented on this.)

The world has moved forward thanks to the Internet and its ability to make once menial tasks now become simple, and as a direct result the consumer has taken it for granted. We can pay our bills, watch live streaming movies, and access libraries of information all without leaving our chairs. And that is how it should be - the Internet is a tool designed to serve our needs. We want it now, we want it faster, and we want it 24 hours a day and we should not be making apologies for it. I see the problem is that everyone has moved forward, but the RIAA has remained stationary. And with little chance of getting caught, millions of music files online at any given moment, and legal alternatives only recently being available, it's hardly surprising that people have swapped files at some stage.

I do believe that the RIAA will arrive to the party too late though. With I-tunes and many other sites already established and with enormous user bases, who in their right mind is going to purchase their music online from the fear mongering RIAA when (if) they get around to doing the online music model? It looks like they may be trapped in time weather they like it or not.

Not a Member!


Saturday 30th April 2005 | 07:11 PM

Bravo, and amen. If we stopped looking at who's at fault (and really, there's a LOT of people out there...) and started fixing their `problem' we'd all be happier. Also, what about the manufacturers of cd-ripping software and mp3 conversion software? If we didn't have the programs, we wouldn't have (as many) problems......

Not a Member!


Saturday 30th April 2005 | 07:11 PM

That's a very good point about the mp3 ripping and cd burning software. Although these sorts of programs have their legitimate uses, they mainly get used for illegal purposes. The software companies who write this sort of software know well and truly that they are contributing to the problem of piracy, but at the same time they can not be held any more responsible than Kazaa or Limewire. An interesting thing to note is that MicroSoft have always been big in the anti-piracy movement on many levels, yet Windows Media Player actually comes with a CD Ripper built in :-)

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