RIAA: Copyright Holders Make it Difficult to Replicate OiNK, What.CD

RIAA: Copyright Holders Make it Difficult to Replicate OiNK, What.CD

RIAA pres Cary Sherman says the failed sue-em-all campaign was really a success because it was “constantly generating dinner conversations about what you may or may not do with your computer.” He also doubts that legal music stores will ever have the selection of music that P2P offers because of the complexity in trying to get permission from various copyright holders, and types of copyright holders, each of which have their own set of rights.

RIAA pres Cary Sherman still seems to be under the illusion that suing music fans for tens of thousands of dollars, or in most cases, offering to settle of court for several thousand dollars, regardless of innocence, was a good idea. After it decided to drop the practice back in December of 2008 in favor of ISP-level cooperation, he pointed to the growth of digital music sales as proof that the strategy was a success.

In an interview with Vice magazine he maintains that the sue-em-all campaign was the right thing to do, though this time because it helped to created chatter around the dinner table that file-sharing was illegal. He thinks that a majority of people didn’t know they were breaking the law by using KaZaA or other P2P services, and that lawsuits were the only way to really let them know.

From the interview:

The lawsuits were obviously controversial in the media, but the reality was that most people had no idea that what they were doing was illegal at the time of those lawsuits. We did all sorts of surveys. We tried PR firms. We did everything to look at how to begin to change the culture of using illegal P2P. We realized that 1) none of the messages resonated, and 2) most people had no idea that what they were doing was illegal, let alone thought it was wrong. That completely flipped overnight when we started the lawsuits. It made an enormous impression and we were constantly generating dinner conversations about what you may or may not do with your computer. We think it would be very good if there were more such conversations about all the other things that can be done inappropriately with a computer. So we think it had a tremendous impact by very clearly searing in the minds of the public that maybe getting all of this stuff for free isn’t legal after all.

I’m not sure what he means by suggesting that he hopes there were more dinner conversations about what else you shouldn’t do with your PC. Spam? Cyber stalking? Child porn? Or is he just talking about the laundry list of copyrighted material that’s illegal to distribute without permission? Either way, it would appear that he still doesn’t get that suing people likely never turned them into paying customers.

All it did was give the music industry a black eye for looking greedy, short sighted, and out of touch with what music fans really wanted. First it fought digital music tooth and nail until P2P forced its hand. Apple’s iTunes didn’t launch until 2003, almost 4 years after the birth of Napster, and for years it demanded DRM that essentially locked music fans into “top to bottom” systems for selling, playing and protecting music. In both cases the interests of consumers was a distant second or third.

The real sad part of the interview is his admission that legal digital music retailers will never come close to matching the quantity and quality of music available on great music-oriented BitTorrent tracker sites like Waffles.fm or What.CD.

Why? Because you have so many different copyright holders, and so many types of copyright holders, each with their own set set of rights, that it would take a great deal of effort to agree on a business model that could make so many albums available.

“I don’t know how much you know about the industry, but it’s very complicated. It’s got a lot of different rights-holders,” he adds. “You have songwriters and publishers, who have a completely different set of rights than the record company and the artists, and everyone would have to agree on a new business model.”

And he’s right. Think about it for a minute. An easy example is the The Beatles which aren’t on iTunes, and according to Yoko Ono, “don’t hold your breath … for anything [to change].”

There’s just an element that we’re not very happy about, as people,” she said this past April. “We are holding out.

Stop and think for a minute how much money the arguably number one band of all time has lost out on for not having made digital copies of their albums available. It’s mind boggling!

As if this wasn’t the dumbest move ever, just a few weeks ago Pink Floyd’s albums were removed from iTunes because the band refused to sell songs individually in order to “preserve the artistic integrity” of whole albums.

So when it comes down to it the music industry really is its own worst enemy. All music fans want is the music they want, when and how they want it, and all at an affordable price. Oftentimes the only reason many people turn to P2P is because of reasons like I mentioned, the fact that some artists refuse to offer their music digital format, or that some albums, like bootlegs, rare, or out of print albums, simply aren’t available.

Moreover, suing music fans such as these to teach them a lesson will only lead to dinner conversations where everybody discusses how backward the music industry really is.

Stay tuned.

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