Not Gonna Take It

In my morning paper some more annoying news (note that the LA Times website requires equally annoying registration – ‘laexaminer’/’laexaminer’ works – and gives you an amazing number of popover and popunder ads. Give it a break, guys…I hardly use the site any more because of them):

Labels Will See Music File Sharers in Court

Unable to stamp out Internet music piracy through education or threats, the record labels on Wednesday said they will start suing thousands of people who share songs online.

The Recording Industry Assn. of America announced that it plans to spend the next month identifying targets among the estimated 57 million people using file-sharing networks in the United States, focusing on those offering a “significant” amount of songs for others to copy.

Then, in August, RIAA will file its first lawsuits, President Cary Sherman said.

And in July, I’ll stop buying new CD’s from the majors. I understand the cat-and-mouse they are playing with the file swapping services, and that until they figure out how to make the new models work, there is going to be a certain amount of pain. But their unbelievably heavy-handed approach – in which they use the cost of litigation itself against individuals who may or may not be knowingly violating the law – is one which I won’t support with my dollars. I just don’t want to play with people who play like this.

I own about 1,000 CD’s, and have a 3 – 4 disc a month habit. I’ll be shopping for used discs or discs sold directly by the artists for the forseeable future, and I’ll be sending Cary Sherman a message to that effect (by snail mail, since the RIAA doesn’t have any way to contact them on their website).

UPDATE: Joe shares some thoughts on the artists’ perspective.

7 thoughts on “Not Gonna Take It”

  1. It’s best to buy from the artist when you can. Buying a used CD cuts out both the company and the artist.

    The Internet may end up undercutting the entire industry soon. If a band like Metallica were to self-produce their own album and sell it online, they would probably sell almost as many copies as if a company produced it for them. And they would make a heckuva lot more money.

  2. As far as popup/popunder ads, I no longer suffer the infestation. I use Mozilla as my browser and set it to not launch popups/popunders.

  3. The problem with that is Metallica would have to pay directly to the indies to get onto the radio. Unless, they charge the bands for that as well at the end of the day. I also can’t be the only person who wonders whether MTV gets kickbacks. Would the industry tolerate free agents?

  4. Rhapsody. $9.99 a month for all the streaming 128k WMA you can eat, .79 a song if you care to burn, and it’s legal and somebody gets paid.

    This is getting closer to the models that we demand; it’s not there yet, but it’s getting closer. I pay less than a disc per month and I spend about an hour a day of listening. That’s a fine deal! Plus I get to send a message to RIAA that there ARE models that are consumer-friendly, AND to labels to tell them I’m not hearing/buying/recommending anything they won’t allow on the service.

  5. Can we say “desperate bluff”?

    The cost of litigating a couple of thousand lawsuits against defendants who are, at best, young and struggling would be silly. So would the delights of suing little Billy for his 400 shared songs – at a $150,000.00 per count that is a $60,000,000.00 lawsuit.

    The RIAA realizes that even if the ITunes experiment works no one is ever going to buy much more than the hits from a given artist. Which means the aggregation of the hits with the rubbish is over. How many pop CDs do you listen to all the way through more than, say, once?

    CDs are the business model. Even with the silly cuts the Record companies take on ITunes, a couple of bucks versus 10-12 wholesale on a CD is a huge revenue cut.

    Worse, if ITunes takes off as the “legit” end of music and there is a windows version launched why would any artist sign with a record label? Or at least sign for more than an album or two.

    The internet, with the capacity to share tunes and talk about artists and find people with similar tastes eliminates the need for record companies promotional and marketing efforts, (which are losing credibility as more and more teen product is floated and sinks on contact with actual teenagers,)

    Finally, the record companies whip hand used to be the fact they would finance the recording, engineering and mastering of records. All hugely expensive and requiring hours of time in high rent studios. Now a lot, if not all of that production work can be done on a sub $1000.00 computer.

    When you are holding a pair of twos raising the bet shows confidence…or desperation.

  6. Jay –

    If I’m making a tens of million dollars a day, every day I can hold back the tide is a good day.

    I can hire lawyers to file litigation that more-skilled lawyers have crafted for $75K/year, including benefits. They can probably each file and manage 300 – 400 suits at a time…so for $750K/year, I can create 3,000 – 4,000 lawsuits across most of the bigger jurisdictions in the US. Discovery, expert witnesses, etc. are cookie-cutter.

    I don’t think that they’re bluffing; I think they have a real weapon, and that they’re hoping to use it to buy time.

    In a year, as the prisoner said, the king could be dead, I could be dead, or the horse could learn to sing.

    Or, friendly legislators could be persuaded to pass laws tilting the field even more firmly, and large software and hardware companies could be persuaded that there’s a business in it, as long as we can keep the keys in the locks.

    It’s a good rule to be careful when you assume your opponent is bluffing…


  7. How much future is there for an industry that starts from the assumption that its best potential customers must be treated like criminals? The Music Industry, as it is currently constituted, is doomed. Within the industry you can definitely see the “Old Guard” that probably doesn’t get it yet, and the younger ones that may actually know how to use a computer and are fighting for time. The two services they provide – seed money to fund recording and distribution, and marketing of new albums, are becoming increasingly irrelevant. They need to figure out how to give their customers what they want before it turns into a full-blown rebellion. I buy almost no new CDs other than a few of my favorite acts; I’m in my early 40’s (admittedly not their preferred demographic, but have pretty good purchasing power) and am just about fed up with The Industry.

    I see a much more entreprenurial Music Industry in the future. Good new bands will pitch themselves to bankers, VCs, or even Mom and Dad to raise money for recording and marketing (not a large sum these days), and a number of large, portal Web sites will provide distribution, reviews, links to communities of interest, live concert schedules and online ticket purchasing, etc. This could even be combined with in-store or on-line sales of custom-burned “themed” MP3 CDs (ie, “Best of the ’70’s”, or whatever) at much lower cost-per-song than the current model: drop off a list of songs or albums you want, come back a few hours later to pick up your CD. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen. The Industry needs to get its head out of its kiester and get in front of the wave, and stop trying to hold it back. The days of “here’s 40 minutes of music, only 10 of which you will like; please give us $16, only $2 of which will go to the artist” are drawing to a close.

    Falls Church, VA

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