RIAA Tactics a “Failure”?
Friday September 05th 2008, 12:04 pm
Filed under: Fan relations,Music sales

From the ThreatLevel blog over at Wired comes this story: File Sharing Lawsuits at a Crossroads, After Five Years of RIAA Litigation

Some interesting stuff in there that I didn’t know (and some that I did):

  • The RIAA has only won once in a jury trial, out of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of lawsuits they’ve filed. And that verdict is set to be overturned and a mistrial declared, because the judge has decided in light of subsequent rulings that he committed a “manifest error” in his instructions to the jury.
  • Most people the RIAA threatens end up settling out of court. But the settlement money doesn’t go to the musicians whose rights the RIAA claims they’re “protecting” with this campaign of terror. Nope, it all goes to fund additional investigations and prosecutions. Shame on the RIAA!
  • Some lawyers are working on putting together a class-action lawsuit against the RIAA, accusing them of engaging in “sham litigation” tactics. (In other words, extortion.) According to one of the lawyers, the RIAA knows it costs more to hire a lawyer to fight the charges than to settle, so most people settle for a few thousand dollars rather than risk going up against the well-funded RIAA in court and potentially losing big. (In the one jury case they’ve won so far — the one that’s about to get sent back for a retrial — the judgment was for $222,000.)
  • The whole thing has been spectacularly ineffective in stemming the flood of shared music and video. And the RIAA’s own investigative tactics — as well as the legality of some of their accusations and actions — have come under scrutiny in several states.

I’ve written here previously about how forward-thinking artists like Trent Reznor and Radiohead have adapted to the changing times and figured out ways to make a profit without hauling their customers in to court. For years, independent musicians (that is, those without the backing of big labels and their teams of attack lawyers) have been figuring out new and innovative ways to connect with their fans, share their music with the world and still make a living.

The point is, the people who share music or video are often the biggest fans of music and video. Alienating them, accusing them of being criminals and threatening them with draconian penalties is not the way to treat your most loyal fans.

Even the RIAA admit their campaign isn’t doing anything to actually stop the tide of file sharing. They’re simply hoping they can scare enough people to slow things down a bit. But ya know? “Scaring people” isn’t necessarily the best way to win friends (or to make a living).

Why not find a new business model? I think it’s high time the big labels and their buddies in the RIAA join the rest of us in the 21st century.

So what do you think? Is the RIAA spitting into the wind, and it’s time they and the big labels got with the program? Or are they simply looking out for the legitimate interests of hard working musicians everywhere? Do the alternative business models of people like Reznor and Radiohead hold promise? Or are they special cases whose business model can’t be easily adopted by other independent artists?

Article copyright © by Diane M. Aull. All Rights Reserved.

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