RIAA Pres: ‘Legal Music Sales Growth Proof that Suing People Worked’

Says effectiveness of lawsuits against illegal file-sharers proven by rise in legal digital downloads from $183 million in 2004 to well over $3 billion this year.

RIAA Pres Cary Sherman has been busy trying to put a positive spin on the RIAA’s recent decision to quit targeting individual file-sharers. In an interview with CNET, Sharman defends the plan, started some 5 years ago, as the music industry’s only option when file-sharing was running rampant with the use of KaZaA, Morpehus, and the like.

"If you can go back to that time in your mind and remember that file sharing was growing at logarithmic pace," Sherman said referring to 2003, not long after file-sharing service Napster had triggered a music-swapping frenzy. "It was unbelievable how much infringement was going on and there was no sense that it was illegal. There were no legal cases or precedent, nothing to discourage people from this kind of behavior."

The year 2003 was long before the existence of iTunes, which is now the country’s largest music retailer, and other ad-supported music sites that the music industry fought to prevent every step of the way. It hated digital music then, and it hates it just as much now. The only difference is that CD sales have dropped so dramatically at this point that it’s scrambling to stop the bleeding by looking for revenue wherever it can find any before it’s too late.

"At that time we didn’t have any parents engaged in deterring piracy," Sherman recalled. "We didn’t have any digital marketplace to speak of. We had lost the Grokster case in the Circuit Court of Appeals. We appealed that decision to the Supreme Court and won. At that time, the ISPs were making money from piracy. They were almost advertising it ‘Download what you want,’ was the reason to buy broadband. And so doing nothing was basically agreeing to watch your industry get totally decimated. It was a hard decision to make but it was one where there was no alternative if we were going to establish the rules for digital music on the Web."

If Sherman is so confident that his "sue-em-all" strategy was a successful one then why does a recent study by the NPD group claim otherwise? It says that overall P2P usage held steady, yet growth in P2P file-sharing was acute among 13- to 17yos – up a whopping 46%!

If the RIAA’s task is to educate people about copyright infringement it’s doing a horrible job with the people it’s frequently referred to as its "best customers."

[email protected]