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RIAA sues... (again)
January 21, 2004 10:30 AM   Subscribe

RIAA sues... (again): The RIAA has just issued a new lawsuit against 532 more "illegal filesharers" only this time, they're also using the "john doe" approach meaning that they dont have to have ascertain your name by strongarming ISPs, but by suing your IP address, they let the judicial system take care of that little detail.
posted by sixtwenty3dc (39 comments total)

 
my IP address has even less money than i do. now stop interrupting my mp3 download.
posted by quonsar at 10:32 AM on January 21, 2004


The music industry has been suffering from declining sales of album and singles, according to figures from research firm Nielsen SoundScan, and the RIAA says a big reason for the decline is the proliferation of free and illegal music downloads on the Web through sites such as Kazaa, Grokster, and Gnutella.

No. Nothing at all to do with the fact that many of the albums and singles have been absolute crap. It's all because of file sharing!
posted by SisterHavana at 10:49 AM on January 21, 2004


SisterHavana: or that DVD sales are up entirely at the expense of a 20 year old format.
posted by BackwardsHatClub at 11:04 AM on January 21, 2004


The record companies assume that every time you download a song, you would have bought the album it was on if you weren't given any other choice... but this simply isn't true.

"Lost revenue" is just a fantasy.

Given no choice, most people would just not buy the album, therefore the music would never be heard... this decreases exposure for bands and because of this, less albums are sold. It's a cycle...

The RIAA is shooting themselves in the foot (what's new?).

They are fighting their target market, the people whome buy albums for their sound quality/cover art/inserts/ect... like criminals... and the real "criminals" will always find a way around the RIAA. (err... like good music)

But then if I like an album, I buy it... I think the beef that the RIAA has with us is that we aren't buying THEIR albums... we are buying the albums of indie bands and smaller lables not part of the RIAA.

IT all comes down to this, really: Law is not in place to protect outdated buisness models. They should either adapt to the changing market, or find a nitch. They are completely abusing the written law and lawmaking process, plain and simple.
posted by LoopSouth at 11:10 AM on January 21, 2004


(nitchpicking - you mean niche right?)

On IP's only? But what if someone is spoofing their IP?
posted by dabitch at 11:30 AM on January 21, 2004


how do they decide which illegal filesharers to sue (on kazaa alone, i'm sure there is much more than just 532)?
posted by lotsofno at 11:32 AM on January 21, 2004


Roll the bones?
posted by LoopSouth at 11:36 AM on January 21, 2004


Both sides of the filesharing debate are equally adept at lying. The RIAA contends that every file download is a lost sale at full retail price which is false. Avid file sharers contend that album sales actually go up, which is also false.

The reality lies somewhere in between. First of all, even if every download resulted in the loss of a sale of an album all the RIAA is out are their per CD profits, not manufacturing and distribution costs. It's not like shop lifting, actual material goods aren't stolen.

Second of all you can't count every song download as the loss of an album or single sale because there are multiple songs per album. If in my entire life I downloaded 5 songs and they were from only 1 album then the potential losses is the profit they would receive from that one album.

Third not every potential lost album sale is an actual lost album sale. Some people download songs then buy albums, other people download songs and don't buy albums but wouldn't anyway. Some people did the same thing back when I was in grade and high school, albeit without a computer. They'd record music off the radio and listen it in their walkmans.

What we're really dealing with is a change in the distribution methods of mass produced goods. Before the printing press came along if you wanted a copy of a book you either had to do it yourself or pay somebody to do it. It was done with a quill and a bottle of ink and laboriously transcribe a text line by line, page by page all the while trying not to make too many errors. Books were terribly expensive and most people couldn't even afford a single book.

The printing press came along and changed that, books were much more affordable and not only did prices drop but the variety of books increased. Early pulp novels started appearing for instance, something that couldn't possibly be justified if the reproduction costs were too high.

Peer-to-peer filesharing is the ultimate drop in price for reproduction and distribution. If you're willing to deal with mp3s, their loss of fidelity and the rather wide variance in quality available over peer-to-peer networks then reproduction and distribution has dropped to 0. So the only value in them are whatever somebody is willing to pay for their artistic merit.

If the RIAA provides a download service then the distribution and reproduction cost rises up from zero (since they have to provide the quite considerable bandwidth required) but they should be able to undercut Apple by a lot and still make a huge profit since Apple has to not only pay for the bandwidth costs but also pay the RIAA as well.
posted by substrate at 11:36 AM on January 21, 2004


What we are hearing is the sound of a very old man with a very fat belly and very full pockets falling down a very long staircase in very slow motion.

What are they going to do in cases where 100 users are on one IP address? That's like suing Holiday Inn because one of its rooms hosted a card game where someone got cheated.

Waaanh.
posted by squirrel at 11:56 AM on January 21, 2004


substrate's got it right, economically speaking.

I've started using iTunes when I want certain music for which I am not willing to buy the entire album (using iTunes for entire albums is crazy, IMO, because whatever Apple may say, 128kps AAC is not the aural equivalent of CD quality sound, plus a CD gives you a permenant hard copy of the music that is much more durable than a burned CDR). I don't have a problem paying a buck for a song I really want. But iTunes has holes in its catelogue that you could drive a truck through, particularly in its classical and jazz selection, but also in its pop section (beatles? led zeppelin? dave matthews? all nowhere to be found). In addition, it forces you to buy the entire album if you want a track that is above a certain time threshold. I was trying to download Coltrane's performance of "My Favorite Things" at the 1963 Newport Jazz Festival the other day (which was about 15 minutes long) and it said I had to buy the entire album. Why can't I just pay extra for the one long track that I want? Stupid.

Anyway, until iTunes gets its act together a little bit more, I'm sure I'll still be making the occassional visit to Kazaa (although it's really been pretty useless for most music for quite a while now)
posted by boltman at 12:11 PM on January 21, 2004


Laughing my ass off. Can't wait until I see "RIAA v. Everyone" on a docket.
posted by FormlessOne at 12:41 PM on January 21, 2004


I know I shouldn’t be saying this… It’s obscurity allows it to stay off the RIAA radar, but if you are looking for a killer, high quality (better than Napster ever was even in it’s hayday, magnitudes better than Kazaa), electronic music/jazz and practically anything else that’s *good* p2p app, look no further than Soulseek. If you decide to help the project out, they will give you one month of queue privileges (where you are automatically placed in front of “free” users) for every $5 you donate. Trust me, it *is* more than worth it to donate.

It is completely amazing that more people don’t know about it… but then again, it’s better that way. Better selections, better bitrates, better interface, better community.

Just don’t tell too many people… hehe…
posted by LoopSouth at 12:51 PM on January 21, 2004


I wonder how those musicians like Mozart and Bach survived without an enormous industry of folks with no musical talent surrounding them to sell their work.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:21 PM on January 21, 2004


I thought the Beatles were not releasing their music on *any* Internet store. I would hardly expect them to warm up to the store by Apple, with whom they have had a cantakerous relationship when it comes to music.
posted by infowar at 1:23 PM on January 21, 2004


infowar, I hadn't heard that. Why on earth would a band not want to sell their music by any reputable means possible? Do they feel that they would make more money by forcing consumers to be entire albums?
posted by boltman at 1:28 PM on January 21, 2004


From the RIAA's Clean Slate Program Description [PDF]:

Recording Industry Association of America (“RIAA”) is offering amnesty from copyright enforcement to individuals residing in the United States who have, or who believe that they may have, illegally downloaded or distributed copyrighted sound recordings on peer-to-peer networks such as Kazaa, Grokster, iMesh, Morpheus, Bearshare, LimeWire, Gnutella, Blubster, OverNet, Shareaza, Gnucleus, SoulSeek, Earthstation 5 and eDonkey (“P2P Networks”).

So much for obscurity...
posted by xiffix at 1:35 PM on January 21, 2004


I wonder how those musicians like Mozart and Bach survived without an enormous industry of folks with no musical talent surrounding them to sell their work

Mozart died young, starving and dirt poor. However, if I arrange one of his symphonies, I can collect mechanical and performance royalties on my funky version. Gotta love public domain law.
posted by remlapm at 1:36 PM on January 21, 2004


why on earth would you think a band gets to make that decision about product they don't the rights to? do you have any idea what you're talking about, boltman?
posted by quonsar at 1:40 PM on January 21, 2004


apparently not, quonsar. but if the beatles themselves don't own the distribution rights to their music, the decision not to use iTunes becomes even stranger. A record company only cares about making money. Presumably they could make money through iTunes. So what's the problem?

remlapm: that's actually a myth about Mozart dying dirt poor, perpetuated by Amedeus (a wonderful movie that also happens to take fairly significant liberties with history). Mozart's last year of his life was actually the most lucrative of his career. He was buried in an unmarked grave, but this was common practice in 18th century Vienna and didn't signify extreme poverty.
posted by boltman at 1:59 PM on January 21, 2004


boltman, that was snarky and rude of me. only point i was trying to make is that the desires of the creators of music barely figure subsequent decisions about the product. as it is, michael jackson owns the publishing rights and apple corp. owns the distribution rights, and i really don't have any idea why they decided to withold the catalog from iTunes. perhaps they have an idea they could profit to a much greater degree by creating a shortage in the face of demand for beatles music and then doing their own "special" releases a little at a time, at premium prices. but that's total speculation on my part.
posted by quonsar at 2:11 PM on January 21, 2004


Doesn't Micheal Jackson own all the Beatles songs?
posted by Orange Goblin at 2:13 PM on January 21, 2004


Doh. What quonsar said.
posted by Orange Goblin at 2:15 PM on January 21, 2004


Apple are withholding the Beatles catalogue from, uhm, Apple, because of another ongoing legal dispute. Besides, they've always been slow in reacting to new technology - Beatles CDs were a long time coming.
posted by Cobbler at 2:23 PM on January 21, 2004


Quonsar, Apple Music, the Label, or Apple, Inc, as in itunes?
posted by theora55 at 2:31 PM on January 21, 2004


huh, that's interesting Cobbler. I can't imagine anyone confusing Apple Computers and the Beatles' company though or assuming that one endorsed the other based on the trademark. Maybe folks that grew up with the Bealtes see it differently.

Beatles aside though, my basic frustration is simply that I'm trying to do the "right" thing (buy music legally) but often cannot do so because of iTunes very limited selection of the music I'm interested in (mostly jazz and classical). If RIAA is so powerful, and they insist on pursuing these lawsuits, they ought to at least be putting pressure on rightholders to make their music available for legal download.

oh, and no offense taken quonsar.
posted by boltman at 2:38 PM on January 21, 2004


I discovered a while back that Robert A. Heinlein wrote a story called "Lifeline" in 1939 about a guy who invents something revolutionary (I forget exactly what) that puts a whole industry out of business suddenly, and so the companies that make up the industry take him to court to make his invention illegal so that they can preserve their profit margins. Sound familiar?

The judge rules for the inventor, and explains his reasoning thusly:

"There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or a corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute nor common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back, for their private benefit."

I was really impressed with Bob's prescience until I remembered the sheet music/piano rolls IP fight that happened four decades before he wrote this. Still a good quote, though.
posted by eyebeam at 2:47 PM on January 21, 2004


It all comes down to this, really: Law is not in place to protect outdated buisness models. They should either adapt to the changing market, or find a nitch. They are completely abusing the written law and lawmaking process, plain and simple.

I actually disagree with the above: the law is, in fact, about protecting the rights of the owners of that copyrighted work to make whatever bad business decisions they'd like to with it for a set period of time.

Many of those artists make the bad business decision to sell those rights to corporations, even though these companies might make totally different decisions about how to treat your fans and your creations.

Many of those artists make the equally bad decision to try to make money off their work themselves, through whatever hairbrained scheme they can come up, even though the odds are against them.

Ultimately, though, the very existence of technology that makes a crime possible is neither (1) proof that the technology should be illegal or (2) the elimination of the culpability of the person using that technology in an illegal way.

For me, intellectual property is kind of like a webserver -- the host's rules superceed whatever you might expect, so if that host wants to throws banners at you or beg for donations to meet their hosting bill or whatever, that's their little sandbox of creation to make those decisions for.

I can accept that, or move on ... but not feel morally justified in circumventing their wishes.
posted by bclark at 2:47 PM on January 21, 2004


Beatles CDs were a long time coming.

Waiting for demand to build to a peak.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 2:49 PM on January 21, 2004



Quonsar, Apple Music, the Label, or Apple, Inc, as in itunes?


apple corps, which has been around since before steve jobs could say "computer".
posted by quonsar at 3:09 PM on January 21, 2004


bclark, but in this case law is helping the RIAA violate the natural balancing act of a free market. In your example, a web server, I'm consuming their resources. Bandwidth I use isn't available to somebody else. They're free to charge me for the bandwidth or impose banners or whatever. If the price of bandwidth drops and the hosting company doesn't change it's prices and policies it goes out of business unless they collude with other hosting companies to keep the price high.

If somebody commits a copyright violation the original isn't consumed. No matter how many jpegs I have of the Mona Lisa the original is still in a museum and the original is still worth just as much. I can't dilute the value of the original by making copies. I can throw a monkey wrench in the owners attempts to make money by selling their own copies however. If I want to see the original I still have to see it on their terms however.

Now in the RIAA's case they are only selling copies of the original art so they're very susceptible to people undercutting them, in this case by making equivalent copies for free. The RIAA has a right to take people to court over this but the market is still going to exert pressure on the RIAA. Any damages that they sue for are mostly a work of fiction and should be treated as such by the courts. It's not morally or legally right to infringe on copyright but it's also not morally or legally right to commit perjury in defending against it.

A portion of the market has determined that the price the RIAA wants for music is an order of magnitude too high so they're resorting to copyright infringement. The RIAA is combating the copyright infringement by taking their potential customers or friends of potential customers to court but not addressing the reason for the show down in the first place.
posted by substrate at 3:50 PM on January 21, 2004


If you want to see what Beatles songs Michael Jackson owns in a very quick summary...
posted by meech at 3:51 PM on January 21, 2004


hmm, I think substrate is correct in the sense that, in a free market with perfect competition, price should equal marginal cost, and in the case of sound recordings distributed over the internet, the marginal cost is basically zero. Therefore, in a truly "efficient" market music would be free. Free music increases the "wealth" of all (broadly defined) and with no cost to the producer (since it costs nothing to distribute).

But lets face it: if there were no copyrights and everyone had access to high-speed internet, the era of recorded music as we know it would end. Professional musicians would keep demand high for their product by eschewing recordings completely, forcing fans to come to live shows. New recorded music would come from amateurs, who, of course, would stop recording music as soon as they gained enough popularity to have a viable career as a performing musician.

So, basically, copyright is unquestionably a distortion of the market, but it is a necessary one if we want our favorite bands to keep putting out albums prolifically.

There are two ways I can think of to change the paradigm of the recording industry without destroying it though:

The first would be direct government subsidies to musicians. Talented musicians basically get paid by the government to record music and release it to the public for free. This raises a lot of issues about censorship, obviously, but it could work as part of a solution, if not a complete one.

The other solution would be to reduce the lifespan of a copyright on a musical recording to something more like a patent (or less). Patents protect you for 17 years. A reasonable span for copyrighted sound recordings might be something like 6 or 8. This would give artists enough of an incentive to keep producing records, while greatly increasing the wealth (broadly defined) of the rest of us.
posted by boltman at 6:43 PM on January 21, 2004


I discovered a while back that Robert A. Heinlein wrote a story called "Lifeline" in 1939 about a guy who invents something revolutionary (I forget exactly what) that puts a whole industry out of business suddenly

The invention was a device for measuring your remaining lifespan. This threatened the life insurance industry because there was little need for life insurance if you knew exactly how much sand remained in your hourglass.
posted by SPrintF at 7:17 PM on January 21, 2004


I think boltman's on to something with the reduced copyright lifetime. I don't think music should be free (unless you want it to be) but if people are resorting to copyright violation to get your music and it's impacting your bottom line (though this has yet to really been proven) then you need to examine your business model. If the amount of money they're losing is truly significant then they can try to sell more volume by reducing the price. My opinion, and this is not based on fact, is that they really aren't losing significant money to peer to peer filesharing. If this is true then the RIAA would naturally not want to reduce the price of their goods, after all, they're selling as much as they can. They still might be willing to play a lottery with the court system.

The money, if any, that they receive from the 522 people is peanuts. The real value comes if you can force a tax on storage media that gets paid back to the RIAA.
posted by substrate at 7:20 PM on January 21, 2004


In R.A.H's story I think that the life insurance industries final response was to kill and then burn down the home/office of the inventor.

RIAA is a little late for that to work. They seem to have decided to target the customers instead.
posted by Iax at 9:13 PM on January 21, 2004


If you're willing to deal with mp3s, their loss of fidelity and the rather wide variance in quality available over peer-to-peer networks then reproduction and distribution has dropped to 0. So the only value in them are whatever somebody is willing to pay for their artistic merit.

substrate's right about most things, but not that one. Solving P2P's problems of low quality is precisely the thing that could create value in reproduction and distribution. Good quality MP3s, properly tagged, aren't worth 99 cents in today's market, but if the RIAA were willing to provide a DRM-free, easy-to-use system with excellent quality, selection, and editorial and community content, they could charge for it and successfully compete with crappy free P2P services. The old eMusic was a perfect example, before they castrated it.

But lets face it: if there were no copyrights and everyone had access to high-speed internet, the era of recorded music as we know it would end. Professional musicians would keep demand high for their product by eschewing recordings completely, forcing fans to come to live shows.


That reasoning was correct when it cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce a professional-quality recording. With today's ever-cheaper computer-based recording technology, it's completely wrong. Professional musicians will compete on quality of recordings in order to promote their live shows and gain notoriety. Tim O'Reilly provided the best explanation of this: Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy.
posted by fuzz at 11:03 PM on January 21, 2004


Thanks, LoopSouth. First Rolling Stone, now MetaFilter. Thanks a whole damn lot.
posted by dvdgee at 8:45 AM on January 22, 2004


indeed, faze; it looks to me like we are on the edge of an inversion in the music industry. Until the development of the phonograph, and even for some time after, "professional musicians" were people who put on concerts. Then the record industry developed, and the focus shifted to the studio; musicians started making their money from albums, and put on tours in order to promote them. It's a new century now; the cost of music distribution has collapsed, and the cost of production is continually sinking. When the dust settles I think we will see most musicians using recordings as a loss leader for their live shows.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:33 PM on January 22, 2004


er, why did I say faze? I meant fuzz... sorry.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:35 PM on January 22, 2004


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