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RIAA Says Lawsuits Against File-Sharers “Not About the Money”

RIAA Says Lawsuits Against File-Sharers “Not About the Money”

Calls legal campaign “fair and reasonable,” and insists that it lets courts and juries “decide the proper dollar amount.”

Sometimes people in this world are better off not saying anything at all when it comes to controversial issues and Steven Marks, general counsel for the RIAA, is just such a person.

Last Wednesday I reported on how Harvard Professor Charles Nesson, who is defending Joel Tenenbaum against charges that he illegally downloaded 7 songs back in 2004, wrote an op-ed piece decrying RIAA lawsuits targeting illegal file-sharers as an “unconstitutional abuse of law,” and that the real problem is the tension between “our antiquated copyright laws and the social reality of ‘digital natives,’” those that have grown up immersed in a digital world.

Now Steven Marks, general counsel for the RIAA, has been given equal time to espouse his views on the the RIAA’s litigation, or what it calls “education,” campaign.

“The record industry is swept up in a sea of change and we have embraced it,” says Marks to counter the charges that it isn’t satisfying consumer demand.

“Let’s be clear: the best anti-piracy strategy is a vibrant legitimate marketplace rich with content and innovative business models. We get that,” he adds.

Oh really?

So was this before or after all the brick and mortar retailers evaporated? The RIAA has never cared about music fans or artists, only how much money it can squeeze per unit. If it has truly “embraced” change then how does it justify charging digital album prices that are the same as those of physical album prices when they lack anywhere near the cost of distribution?

Why does it still insist on DRM protection for many digital music stores when it knows that’s exactly what drives music fans to illegal file-sharing sites?

How about the fact that it’s also oftentimes selection of music that music fans and just isn’t offered by any of the RIAA’s so-called “embracement” projects or partnerships? Record labels only make part of their catalog available for digital downloads, and so long as there’s a gap between the two people will use illegal file-sharing to satisfy demand.

The best part is where Marks sort of glosses over its decade of ineptitude, saying that “four years ago, the industry earned virtually no revenues from digital music services.”

Now who’s fault was that? Napster appeared nearly 10 years ago, and if the RIAA really cared about music fans or artists for that matter, would it have spent 6 years suing everybody it could, up to this very day in fact after it insisted it quit its “education” campaign last August?

Marks goes on to say that “to enable that legal marketplace to reach its full potential, we still need to educate fans about the law and illegal sites that do not compensate artists for their work.” If it wants to “educate” people then why did it fight Nesson’s attempts to have the trial against Tenenbaum broadcast live on the Internet for all to see? What better way to “educate” file-sharers than that? It was a sentiment echoed by District Court Judge Nancy Gertner

“While the Plaintiffs object to the narrowcasting of this proceeding, their objections are curious,” she observed. “At previous hearings and status conferences, the Plaintiffs have represented that they initiated these lawsuits not because they believe they will identify every person illegally downloading copyrighted material. Rather, they believe that the lawsuits will deter the Defendants and the wider public from engaging in illegal file-sharing activities. Their strategy effectively relies on the publicity resulting from this litigation.”

All the RIAA has done has intimidate people, knowing full well that most accused file-sharers can’t afford the costs of mounting a legal defense. Where’s the sense of justice or even the hint of education in that? All lawsuits do, as many artists have pointed out, is alienate music fans and make them turned off to the prospect of supporting them in the future by buying new albums. Would you buy an album from EMI, for example, after having been threatened to pony up $3,000 USD or else?

The music industry needs to find ways to “monetise their behaviour” not discourage it, noted Billy Brag of the Featured artists Coalition recently.

Marks also voices his pleasure that we are on the cusp of transitioning to a “more effective strategy” of fighting illegal file-sharing, “working with Internet Service Providers to forward notices of copyright theft directly to subscribers to point out that their illegal activity has been detected.”

So in other words, the RIAA’s “embracement of change” by creating plans for “innovation and experimentation” in the music marketplace means an intrusion into the privacy of those same music fans they claim to be listening to? How does filtering and monitoring the transfer of files between people online strengthen the music industry as a whole?

Again Bragg’s recent comments ring true, as he remarks about efforts in the UK by the music industry there to get ISPs to institute a “three-strikes” system to disconnect illegal file-sharers.

“Stating that a ‘write and sue’ policy will not work is an admission that the current copyright law is no longer fit for purpose in a digital age,” he writes. “The government has pointed out to the BPI that if it wants to crack down on unauthorized file-sharing, the law is already on its side. Fearful of the prospect of dragging their customers though the courts, with all the attendant costs and bad publicity, members of the record industry have come up with a simple, cost-free solution to their problem: get the ISPs to do their dirty work for them.”

Bragg points out that the plan is flawed for several reasons. He says not only is it “shameful” to force another industry to prop up failings of your own in another, but also questions how it expects to stay ahead of technology if it’s never been able to do so in the past.

“Any unauthorized file-sharers who fear being caught out can simply encrypt their exchanges,” he adds.

Just to make sure any file-sharers out there think that a switch to monitoring your Internet traffic at the ISP might give you a free pass for past transgressions, Marks makes it clear that the RIAA will show no mercy.

“That doesn’t mean a free pass to those who egregiously downloaded unauthorized music in the past or who refuse repeated offers to discuss a reasonable settlement,” he continues.

Is $3000 plus dollars really a “reasonable” amount to the teenagers and poor college students it mainly targets? I think not. Of the more than 35,000 plus file-sharers targeted by the RIAA less than a dozen have seen the inside of a courtroom. Why? Resources.

Marks also criticizes the fact that Tenenbaum admitted to downloading 7 songs illegally and refuses to answer for it. He says that Nesson is trying to transform the court into a “three-ring circus” for trying to “gut the copyright laws.”

Nesson is simply arguing that when Congress wrote the Copyright Act it never intended to allow copyright holders to target “pro se noncommercial defendants,” those acquiring content for personal use.

He furthers that the real problem in all of this is that antiquated copyright laws have yet to catch up to the realities of our digital age. The tension between “our antiquated copyright laws and the social reality of ‘digital natives,’” those that have grown up immersed in a digital world, is what really must be addressed. Nesson has even recently argued that downloading music without permission of copyright holder qualifies for “fair use” exemption from copyright laws.

“We’ve never once sought maximum damages in our court cases against individual downloaders,” Marks writes. “We let courts and juries decide the appropriate dollar amount for any case that reaches that far stage.”

Nevermind that it doesn’t have to, just ask Jammie Thomas when she was initially found liable for $220,000 for illegally sharing 24 songs.

“And this program has never been about the dollars”we lose money on it and any recoveries are a small fraction of the enormous toll wrought upon the music community.”

Oh really? If it’s never been “about the dollars” then why go out of your way to make sure accused file-sharers don’t get their day in court? If it’s to “educate” then why not get the courts to say so, or to allow your arguments to be watched live by millions for the first time?

It’s just more of the same nonsense from the RIAA and the decade-long “three-ring circus” of its own.

[email protected]

Jorge A. Gonzalez
Founder of ZeroPaid.com and various other websites. Follow me on your favorite social network. Twitter | Google Plus
Mal Greenborg
Mal Greenborg

If a song sells for 1 dollar and it sells 3000 times on itunes, the song made 3000 dollars. If a song sells for 1 dollar and a user publishes it on bit torrent and it gets downloaded 3000 times, the damages are 3000 dollars. Simple math.

derp
derp

If you upload it and it gets downloaded it's a potential loss of $3000. If a single person downloads it it isn't a loss of $3000. Simple math.

mal greenborg
mal greenborg

On p2p downloading IS uploading. If you download you are uploading at the same time. That is how the technology works - downloaders become publishers. If you publish, you break copyright under the current law - not for downloading, but for being a publisher. Sorry to break it to you. You should learn to understand the technology.

D.AN
D.AN

"... downloading IS uploading... " You ARE an idiot.

Xtripit
Xtripit

Look up the word potential ;) After that you'll see you better get back to school.. or try and get a job with the RIAA/IFPI

drklassen
drklassen

@Mal: the math is only simple if you make the simple-headed assumption that unauthorized downloaded copies are truly "lost" sales.

graphicartist2k5
graphicartist2k5

and we're all supposed to believe that it's "not about the money" when the riaa gets involved with people sharing music over the internet? PLEASE! get a HUGE grip on reality, riaa! how in the blue freaking hell can you expect ANY of us to think that your greedy asses aren't after draining as much money from people as you can, just because you want to make it look like those who download music are "stealing" money from the artists, when YOU are the ones stealing it right from under their noses, and have been doing so for YEARS? as the saying goes, you're the pot calling the kettle "black", and you're being called on your wrong stuff, riaa. what you don't realize is that there are ALOT of people out there that are way more educated than you think concerning what copyright is really about, and that there are those of us who already know that copyrights are created whenever ANYTHING is created, regardless of whether or not there's a piece of paper that says these said creations are "copyrighted". your scare tactics are getting VERY old, and you need to seriously stop your attacks on innocent people, and you need to stop making them look like they're so "evil" just because they've downloaded music, movies, software, games, and so forth off of the internet, and you KNOW there's nothing you can do about it. take your greedy asses back to your corporate offices, and stop being the huge pain in the ass that you are, and MAYBE people will forget about you.

Rusty Pete
Rusty Pete

im'a gonna get an icepick for his ugly head

SadistiX
SadistiX

A corporate interest group that does not care about money...interesting...

pink panther
pink panther

"those who egregiously downloaded unauthorized music" The RIAA, news sources, etc consistently say DOWNLOADING, over and over. People are being sued for DISSEMINATING copyrighted music, not downloading it. The RIAA is winning the war of definitions and terminology. The ignorant news media parrots "downloading" all the time. Even Ars doesn't point out when the RIAA uses the term "downloading" improperly. Also, the use of unnecessary adjectives like "egregiously" in editorials (or the NY Times' "shameless", their favorite editorial word!) makes you look silly, RIAA. Word salad like that undermines what you're trying to communicate. If it wasn't egregious/shameless/etc you wouldn't be discussing it.

PIRATeLover
PIRATeLover

the damn riaa and mpaa have to die for the good of humanity, these monster are robbing us of our internet rights, such evil people really they'd destroy the whole internet if they could just to spite everyone

Nicholai
Nicholai

Boycotting any artist that works with the RIAA is the only way to stop the RIAA.

1cooldude
1cooldude

RIAA Says Lawsuits Against File-Sharers “Not About the Money” hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

Konti
Konti

Take an English course your grammar is terrible.

soulxtc
soulxtc

So is your mom's breath :P

Cameron Boehmer
Cameron Boehmer

"...Why does it still insist on DRM protection for many digital music stores when it knows that’s exactly what drives music fans to *illegal file-sharing sites* [emphasis added]?" Dude! File sharing is not illegal, nor are websites or programs that enable file sharing. What is the Internet except one big file sharer? You mean to say that theft of copyrighted content is illegal. And whether or not downloading a copy of a copyrighted work for noncommercial use constitutes theft is still being debated.

drklassen
drklassen

@Cameron: What *you* meant to say is that "infringement of copyright", or "unauthorized distribution of copyrighted content" is illegal. There is absolutely NO theft.

jyamato
jyamato

Ridiculous. Since when does one song amount to $3000? You can't just put a price tag that ridiculous onto single songs. At the most, the courts should give the accused a choice of either paying in full for all of the songs or paying a set fine not based on number of songs and/or brief jail time.

John Davis
John Davis

LMAO, if the bottom feeding, blood sucking attorneys are involved, you can rest assured its ALL about money! RT www.privacy-tools.echoz.com

DrewWilson
DrewWilson

I suspect that the RIAA wants to bring in a three strikes regime given that their international arm, the IFPI, has been lobbying to get that in place in France and the UK. If that's the (highly likely) case, then expect a showdown over whether or not users have to pay for their internet connections after they get disconnected because I think that companies like AT&T wouldn't play ball with the idea for a second on the notion of mass disconnections of users.



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