The R.I.A.A., the same trade group behind the push to make radio stations pay additional fees for the music they play, had a big victory the other day. A civil jury, apparently high on something, awarded the R.I.A.A. damages in the amount of $1,920,000 from a woman who was found to have illegally shared 24 songs.
Anyone care to do the math? That works out to $80,000 a song.
One can fault the jury, of course. How in God’s name they came up with $80,000 a song I have no idea, but I’d like to offer up my entire music library for sale at those prices. It’s absolute thievery in most cases to pay even $15 for an album of 10 turds and two decent songs, which is precisely why the iTunes model of $.99 or $1.29 a song works so well.
I’m sure the R.I.A.A., and the record companies in general, hate the world we live in. They’ve essentially lost control of their distribution network. That’s their own failure, though. They created digital media in the form of CD’s, without apparent thought to the idea that digital media can be replicated over and over again with little if any loss.
Back in the day of cassettes, if you taped a tape of a tape, you got what you wanted, but you got it with such a massive load of tape hiss that it got less and less fun to listen to. That was perfect for them. It made the purchasing of fresh media necessary. We no longer have that issue. What is a Sony to do, being both a provider of art and a provider of the digital storage of said art that allows easy replication?
The answer, if you ask the R.I.A.A., is to sue their own customers. I recognize, in a general sense, their right to protect their intellectual property. It’s 2009, though. This is no longer new technology. Seems to me what the music industry needs to do—has needed to do for more than a decade—is to get a handle on the distribution network of their own damn product instead of sticking their head in the sand most of the time, and then popping up and flailing about at people who share music (or radio stations, with their other battle plan.)
In some ways, file sharing has to—absolutely has to—be considered advertising for their product. One friend says to another, “Hey, listen to this; I love this song.” It happens all the time. Back in my youth, it was called making a mix tape. And it was completely in violation of the copyrights involved.
My question is, since they don’t value the free advertising they get from having their songs played on the radio (see the Performance Royalties Act now before Congress), and they don’t want you to share songs with your friends, how is it exactly that they think the next generation of hits is going to be created? This is a potential flaw in freedom, at least from the perspective of the recording industry. The horse has long since left the barn on all of this stuff, and instead of attempting to hop on that horse and start to steer it in the way they’d like it to go, they’re just trying to jam it back in the barn. Good luck with that.
One minor aside on this whole copyright thing: It’s a copy-right. It protects someone’s rights to their material. Nothing is “copywritten,” as I have seen people write here and there. In the past tense, it is material that has been copyrighted. That’s a pet peeve of mine, and I just thought I’d throw it out there from this, my bully pulpit.