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You're digging your own grave, RIAA... Tim 
Posted by: Tim at 11:00 PM EST on 7/3/2002
File Under: Music

First the RIAA shut down Napster, but I really couldn't hold against them, as it obviously really was aiding copyright infringement by millions of users. I didn't really care, nor did many others, because I simply moved on to other software like Morpheus and KaZaa that have decentralized networks that could never be shut down. Well, unless they started suing individual users, and the RIAA wouldn't be stupid enough to sue their own customers, would they? WOULD THEY? Well, it looks like I was wrong.

According to a Wall Street Journal article posted on MSNBC.com, the RIAA is planning to sue individual file-sharing network users. Though they're only planning to sue the most prolific users, this is still a smack to the face of a public that is still buying CDs en masse. Sure, numbers might be down a little, (a mere 5% in 2001 - meaning sales were actually still increasing during Napster's heyday in 1999/2000) but it's not as if record company executives are being sent to the poorhouse.

Hell, maybe the declining sales have something to do with the fact that most of the music the RIAA supports is generic rehash put together to sell to ditzy teenie-boppers? I see dozens of boy bands and cheap punk-wannabes, but nothing truly new and interesting. Case in point, the techno scene (and many other forms of electronica) has exploded since the proliferation of the Internet - especially on college campuses where file-sharing is most popular. Why do you think techno has become so much more popular? Because it's different - something most people have never been exposed to before. And you know what? People LIKE experiencing new and different music! The RIAA is spitting out the same music it has for years, but peoples' tastes are changing.

Or what about the fact that CDs are kept at artifically high prices? I know I would be infinitely more willing to buy a CD if it was priced at $8 to $10 instead of $15 to $20. I'm sure many others would agree. When CDs were first introduced to the market, they carried an average price tag of $17. That was 20 years ago. Who has ever heard of a technology that doesn't go down in price over 20 years? They're gouging CD buyers, plain and simple.

Obviously, the RIAA is still living in the early 90's. The internet and electronic music are here to stay, no matter what they have to say about it. Shutting down file-sharing networks and suing individual users is like trying to stop the incoming tide with a spoon. It's hopeless. Why are they so stupid to not see this? Instead of spending all their time and money on a hopeless cause, why not go with the flow? They should use that money to put their heads together and figure out a way to work the Internet into their business model. As soon as Napster shut down, a dozen new applications popped up in its place. For every high-volume file trader they sue, thousands (if not millions) will still be out there happily sharing away. They're not stopping anything, only making themselves look bad.

What really irks me, though, is that this comes shortly after news that they want to charge royalties for second hand music and the implementation of a system charging online radio stations royalties for the music they play. Most online radio stations are non-profit hobbist sites with zero income. How can they possibly afford to pay the royalties? They can't, so they shut down. My guess is that the RIAA had no real interest in seeing online radio take off and bring them money from royalties - they probably just wanted them to die off. They want to keep things exactly the same, because that's the only way they'll keep making money. (Click here for one webcaster's take on the internet royalty fees.)

The RIAA has a business model stuck in the past and they're trying to keep us there with them. Sorry, but the rest of us are moving on. If you choose not to join us, RIAA, you're just digging your own grave.
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