RIAA sues
May 28, 2002 11:49 AM   Subscribe

RIAA sues Audiogalaxy. "After targeting decentralized popular file-sharing services such as Kazaa, Morpheus, Grokster, and Madster, the Recording Industry Association of America took aim at Audiogalaxy in court last Friday..." [via pfm]
posted by dobbs (46 comments total)
There's also an interesting aside in the article which suggests a plan to solve the file swapping "problem". Oddly, the plan is from Verizon. I couldn't find a link to the proposal, however.
posted by dobbs at 11:53 AM on May 28, 2002

The solution proposed by Verizon -charging ISPs for a single all-inclusive license fee, which in turn charges users a -we hope- modical and reasonable fee for such concept, sounds like the one of the most sense-making schemes I´ve heard of in a long time, despite coming from a corporate behemoth everyone loves to hate such as Verizon. Why the RIAA doesn´t agree is beyond me (but not surprising, since the only thing the RIAA knows how to do is behave like a big obonoxius brat when faced with the reality of its obsolete business model). Its corporate blindness doesn´t allow them to see that for every P2P file sharing system they pretend to squash there are a thousand of them sprouting on their backs.
posted by betobeto at 12:08 PM on May 28, 2002

Here's an article from USA Today about the plan.

Recording Industry Association of America president Hilary Rosen calls the proposal "the most disingenuous thing I've ever heard. It's ridiculous."
posted by ry at 12:15 PM on May 28, 2002

If Hilary Rosen is against it then it must be good.
posted by 10sball at 12:19 PM on May 28, 2002

What's ridiculous is that the obsolete gatekeepers won't just realize that they are obsolete and figure out how to reinvent themselves to be useful again. The RIAA is guarding a toll bridge nobody has to cross anymore. $1 a month? I'd pay that and still give money directly to the artists if I found a way( I think all artists should open up a paypal account, or some equivilant like a PO box, so people can donate voluntarily).

As to the original article... Audiiogalaxy always seems to have a better inventory of songs than the kazaa/morpheus folks.
posted by srw12 at 12:33 PM on May 28, 2002

I'm surprised it took them this long. Audiogalaxy has a had a robust system for quite a while.

This is simply more of the same of the RIAA strongarm tactics; wear out all companies who have a P2P plan, create an atmosphere of fear and anxiety in order to dissuade emerging companies from getting in the game. Which is, of course, what happens when you have "virtually unlimited funds".
posted by jeremias at 12:48 PM on May 28, 2002

Verizon's plan has the usual problems-mostly who's going to pay? There are plenty of people who never download music, including me. Would this be a parallel to taxation without representation? Why should I pay my ISP extra money to support the ripping community?
posted by gordian knot at 1:02 PM on May 28, 2002

> This is simply more of the same of the RIAA strongarm
> tactics; wear out all companies who have a P2P plan,

There's your problem right there. P2P can't and mustn't be based on or run by companies. P2P is not a business plan.
posted by jfuller at 2:10 PM on May 28, 2002

There's no way I'd pay to trade MP3s with other people. Is the RIAA going to provide me with bandwidth? Are they going to provide good sound quality? Are they going to provide reliable, fast downloads? Surely not. They want money for what we're doing already for free.

It's like me throwing a frisbee with a friend in the back yard and the Frisbee agencies come in and tell me that now I have to start paying them to play with someone else, who may not want to play in another 2 minutes. Hey, it's as good an analogy as I could come up with.

Now if the RIAA wanted to provide a fast download to an album with the cover art and quality at 256kbps, then I'd be willing to talk.
posted by geoff. at 2:22 PM on May 28, 2002

It's like me throwing a frisbee with a friend in the back yard

That's funny. When I throw a frisbee, there aren't two identical frisbees afterward.

Ripping CD's is the same as shoplifting them. It's stealing from the production company AND THE ARTIST. It never ceases to amaze me how many people think it is OK to do something just because they are capable of it. (ie "I have a CD burner and an internet connection so it must be OK to rip CDs"). If you have a gun, It is still not right to shoot someone in the head, just because you legally own the tools to do so. In other words, there is nothing new or profound about the government limiting the usage of an otherwise legal instrument.
posted by plaino at 3:11 PM on May 28, 2002

1) Distributed P2P services (Gnutella et al) will not be shut down by the Majors.

2) Many people will pay for access to a system that is more reliable/easier-to-use than Gnutella.

3) People will not pay for quality below that of the free services.

4) Cheap (but non-free) individual mp3s are a viable new revenue stream.

5) Better still is an MP3 download system in subscription form. See eMusic.
posted by Marquis at 3:12 PM on May 28, 2002

Ripping CD's is the same as shoplifting them.

No, it's transforming them from one medium to another. I own over 400 CD's, and I will rip'em all... It's not theft until I share them... Why would I want them in soft-copy format? maybe I have a portable player, maybe I have a home stereo server, maybe a car player, maybe I like a virtual jukebox, with all of my music cataloged, with custom playlists...

However, the moment I hook that 80GB baby up to the net via P2P, FTP, HTTP or Windows File sharing, then I am breaking the law.

You are allowed to make backup copies of many types of media, even allowed to make personal recordings of television shows, these are some of your legal rights...
posted by jkaczor at 3:17 PM on May 28, 2002

Didn't Napster make some use of a "fair-use" defense?

Seems like when these guys finally do get to court, there isn't much of an argument for P2P
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 3:36 PM on May 28, 2002

plaino, I wasn't attempting to touch the ethics of downloading music. I was just attempting to show that the RIAA was going to want to charge us something they don't have any actual costs in.

I pay for my ISP and my harddrive, and my computer. So does the guy I'm trading with. The RIAA wants that (or maybe not) to continue only with everyone paying them for the privilege of not suing everyone. If I'm going to pay to download music I expect a certain level of quality. Not a kid who ripped a song at 96kbps and I'm downloading it off his 28kbps modem. Would I pay for the ability to download good quality albums online for a monthly fee? You bet I would. One of the reasons trading music is so popular is because, people are tired of paying $17 for a piece of crap they don't like in 5 minutes. Before trading I stopped buying CDs. If I did buy a CD it was a classical one. Now I'm no longer afraid to buy because I know exactly what's going to be on it. It's no longer a mystery box.

The ethics of CD ripping is murky. I can legally mix cds for friends right? The distribution model of music is what is wrong. Why should I pay $17 for a piece of 50 cent plastic? Why don't people photocopy books? Becuase it's not worth their time or money. Maybe the time of the multimillionaire record exec and rock star is over. Just maybe they have to start taking pay cuts to lower the price of CDs or come up with new ways to make money.

Using your gun analogy, let's say bullets were $17 a piece. A friend lent me a bullet to look at. I then buy a piece of metal and mold it into the shape of that bullet he gave me. I do it for $2 instead of $17, is that wrong? I mean someone I guess at Smith and Weston spent time designing and engineering that bullet, and are now living in Beverly Hills because they're charging a lot for that bullet. Is it wrong for me to copy the bullet? What if I bought the bullet first, then made copies of it? You don't see any lowly engineer at Smith and Weston living up the high life. Music execs and to a lesser extent musicians, have been able to get away this for a long time, that's great it's America, but the times are changing, away from their favor.
posted by geoff. at 3:37 PM on May 28, 2002

Newsflash to plaino and his americentric friends: "Private copying" of music is specifically legal in Canada and has been since 1998. Of course, they ding you on hidden taxes in the price of some recordable media, but please don't spread your dudgeon across the border. It's all so very unseemly.
posted by joeclark at 4:00 PM on May 28, 2002

I can legally mix cds for friends right?

Technically, no. That's outside of personal use.

Why should I pay $17 for a piece of 50 cent plastic?

If they're just fifty-cent pieces of plastic, why would you ever buy more than one?
posted by kindall at 4:12 PM on May 28, 2002

Kindall so the Metafilter cd mix thing is illegal?

The point I'm trying to make about the CD is that they're overpriced. Other people have probably said that better than I have. I'm trying to say that the music industry needs to change, not us change to them.
posted by geoff. at 4:28 PM on May 28, 2002

I agree that at $18+, CDs are too much money. The fact is, however, that most mainstream releases aren't overpriced per se. The majority of radio-ready commercial albums don't make their money back.

Of course, while Hilary Rosen and the RIAA would have us believe that the only solution is expensive CDs, that's not really the case. EMI need not be blowing $80 million on firing Mariah Carey, Sony need not expend $25M promoting Destiny's Child. If the RIAA and ClearChannel could create an environment where good music, not payola and mass-marketing, resulted in airplay, well, everyone would benefit. They'd save money, we'd hear better tunes, and CDs would cost what they should.

Some labels have learned that if you make albums cheaply and don't blow your cash, great discs can be sold for $12 (postage paid) or less. You can sell MP3 singles for a buck. Others, through eMusic, MP3.com, etc., have found ways to expand their listenership through the Internet and make money.

Still, no matter how misguided the RIAA is, the music-buying public needs to remember that for artists to continue recording, they need to make money. That means that you, the listener, should purchase the albums you enjoy (preferably from the artist/label themselves, over the Web or at a show). Otherwise, you're no better than the greedy RIAA middle-men.
posted by Marquis at 6:14 PM on May 28, 2002

Mp3 trading is much more analogous to sharing a book then it is to shoplifting. When you shoplift, the CD company loses money. When you download, it costs them not a penny. I'm amazed any judge has said that downloading is any more against fair use than a library is.
posted by Kevs at 6:19 PM on May 28, 2002

In Canada at least, libraries don't fall under "fair use" - they operate under separate legislation. Authors, in fact, receive a royalty every time a book is loaned out. Also, when you "share a book", both users don't get to maintain a near-identical hard copy to read at their own whim. The analogy doesn't seem to really hold up - though I continue to appreciate the Napster/Dewey Decimal System analogy.
posted by Marquis at 6:32 PM on May 28, 2002

obligatory link to glenn mcdonald's argument against napster and for the digitization of all record companies' backlogs.

the problem with the music industry (and i've said this before) is that it is industry first and music second. while this would work if we were talking about a tire factory, music is such an idiosyncratic part of people's lives and is subject to different evaluation than, say, tires. while i can almost see an argument for file-sharing/cd-ripping as shoplifting for records that are readily available at retail price, plenty of music languishes out of print because it would only appeal to a portion of the record-buying population too small to justify giving it a print run, and/or rights issues prevent its release (or just issues like the record company apparently losing the masters). since the $50-80 i would spend on some of these records would not go into the artists' pockets, it's far more convenient for me to just download the songs off some file-sharing service and write out a check for the royalties the band would have received, and send it to the band in question.
posted by pxe2000 at 7:07 PM on May 28, 2002

oh, and obligatory example of record collecting scum so as not to indict rory. :)
posted by pxe2000 at 7:10 PM on May 28, 2002

CDs aren't overpriced, apparently. (link from RIAA.com, so it may be suspect.)
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 7:13 PM on May 28, 2002

kindall, you are wrong. It's perfectly legal for friends to trade tapes -- I believe Napster trotted out that fact in their ill-fated defense, but the judge, of course, didn't think that provision scaled to thousands of strangers. I believe it's protected in section 107, I'm sure I could find more links if I spend more time on the issue (which I'm willing to do if necessary), but I'd rather not waste the evening.

Thanks all fine and good, but reading section 108 really struck me. This is the part of copyright law that protects librarians, and after reading the whole thing, I don't see how it doesn't protect P2P users. Sure, the companies such as Kazaa, Napster, and Audiogalaxy aren't protected here -- since they're doing this for "commercial advantage." However, an individual offering their record collection for download on, say, and FTP server should certainly count as a noncommercial archivist, offering their collection "openly to the public." Restrictions are made here on the distribution of digital reproductions, but it looks like that only counts for unpublished works. INAL -- would somebody care to clear this up?
posted by Eamon at 7:16 PM on May 28, 2002

"...[libraries are allowed] to reproduce no more than one copy or phonorecord of a work..."

There's your explanation, Eamon.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 7:24 PM on May 28, 2002

I would never clutter my hard drive with two copies of the same MP3.
posted by Eamon at 7:33 PM on May 28, 2002

Authors, in fact, receive a royalty every time a book is loaned out.

I'd like to see a hard link on that. Per capita, Calgary Public Library has one of the highest circulation ratio's in the world. They would be brankrupt if this were the case. I have to do some searching, but this is highly suspect.
posted by jkaczor at 7:54 PM on May 28, 2002

Authors, in fact, receive a royalty every time a book is loaned out.

to my knowledge, and i may be wrong, this is not correct. in fact, libraries pay a higher price for the book in the first place. however, once they've bought the book they do not pay royalties on it, regardless of how often it lends.

at least this is how it works for non-books. i used to own a video label. tapes sold retail for $25. they sold to university's and libraries for $100.

Technically, no. That's [trading with friends] outside of personal use.

not so. last year, i wrote to 32 different labels for permission to copy a track onto a mix cd i was making for my mailing list. without exception, every label that wrote me back (26 of them) told me "if you're giving it away and not getting any $ in return then you don't need our permission."
posted by dobbs at 8:18 PM on May 28, 2002

I'm sorry; I've been doing so much research into music copyright that I let my wagging tongue get ahead of me on the libraries issue. You're absolutely right, jkaczor - and thanks for calling me on it. Upon further investigation, CANCOPY collective licensing distributes royalties to authors every time a book is copied, be it at a library, copyshop, or in government. There's no additional payment (that I can see) for books that are loaned.

According to Canadian copyright law (not the same in UK, presumably), the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted music constitutes infringement, "whether or not for the purpose of trade". In Canada, then, what the labels told you would be, er, wrong. (But it's legal since they gave you permission.)
posted by Marquis at 8:23 PM on May 28, 2002

That's funny. When I throw a frisbee, there aren't two identical frisbees afterward.

Ripping CD's is the same as shoplifting them.

That's funny. When I steal a CD, there aren't two identical CDs afterward.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:53 PM on May 28, 2002

no problem Marquis. that makes sense, thinking back to services offered by various large libraries, and copies of books come to mind.

of course, thinking back to the days when the Warhammer40k rules book cost about $65.00 CDN, I carefully seperated the pages, and copied it for about $12.00, then put my originals in plastic page protectors... oh well, guess I've never been a good copyright citizen...

(hmmm, except now I'm reminded of the fact that those page protectors cost a helluva lot more before we had Staples, something like 0.20 per page... so... add another 1-time cost of $20.00 to the process, plus my time, and... it wasn't worth it...)
posted by jkaczor at 9:05 PM on May 28, 2002

without exception, every label that wrote me back (26 of them) told me "if you're giving it away and not getting any $ in return then you don't need our permission.

I feel better about trading mix CDs now. You learn something new every day. I don't really see how it qualifies as personal use, but if the record companies themselves say that, who am I to argue?
posted by kindall at 9:18 PM on May 28, 2002

pxe2000: I agree with you. Services like mp3.com, Pressplay, etc. do not appeal to me at all. I would love an online service that has hard to find albums, that are out of print or othewise unavailable. None of these services have that. The record industry's solution is the equivalent of a Sam Goody, or some other record store in a mall, when what I want is Aquarius Records or some other independent store with a huge selection of unique and hard to find records.
posted by ry at 6:50 AM on May 29, 2002

ry: it just seems like the most cost-effective plan of action would be for the major labels to operate like cable tv does. you pay $500 (say) for yearly access to their vaults, and they put everything online that can be released and that the artists want released for download, including mp3s of the albums and pdfs of the sleeve artwork. this way consumers can download music, artists can get paid, and record companies can release the records that might not attract as wide an audience (many of which are owned by major record labels, incidentially) without spending large amounts of money on packaging and distribution.

not that this has ever occured to these chuckleheads, mind you...
posted by pxe2000 at 7:45 AM on May 29, 2002

US citizens, read the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 sometime. It's legal to copy music and give it away (but not sell it) as long as you do so using devices that are intended only for audio recording -- i.e. not a computer.

A bit arbitrary and nonsensical IMHO. Maybe the RIAA was trying to push for more barriers and couldn't get 'em. I don't know.

Anyway. I use P2P much like MP3.com. I'll download stuff that I can't find on CD, or that I want to try before I buy. If I like it, and I can buy it, I will.

But I figure there are an equal number of CD's I haven't bought because I didn't like the music, and CD's I have bought because I did. CDs I avoided buying because I could freely download the MP3s aren't even a factor. I just buy stuff more intelligently instead of based on reviews and cover art now.

And I rip every CD I buy so I can listen to it at work, at home or in the car without hauling physical junk around with me. :)
posted by Foosnark at 7:56 AM on May 29, 2002

It shouldn't be too difficult (as these things go, at least), to rig up a computer that only copies music. A custom kernel, a simple GUI, an old 486 or Pentium 1, and voilà, a home-made audio recording device (that takes a forever to rip CDs)!

Thanks, Foosnark, for reminding me of the law I knew existed. Here is a link for those that are interested (in case, you know, you don't feel like Googling it yourself).
posted by Eamon at 8:57 AM on May 29, 2002

Most mp3 encoding entails quality loss. This argument shouldn't even really kick off until we all have gigantic hard disks and hods of bandwidth, because you still have to go and buy the CD in order to listen to the music at an acceptable quality level. P2P is for preview only unless you're underfunded, in which case it's a bit more convenient all round than copying your friends CDs to tape.
posted by walrus at 10:39 AM on May 29, 2002

Most mp3 encoding entails quality loss. This argument shouldn't even really kick off until we all have gigantic hard disks and hods of bandwidth, because you still have to go and buy the CD in order to listen to the music at an acceptable quality level.

No, not really. 192Kbps or 256Kbps with a good encoder is quite acceptable, in fact it's more than satisfactory for all but the most demanding listening situations and/or material.
posted by kindall at 12:28 PM on May 29, 2002

i download an mp3 for free from the net (possibly from a bands website). i like the sound, so i pay to see the band whenever possible, and i buy a cd from the band at the venue. i'm happy, they're happy, everyone's happy. perhaps.

if the band is on a major label (with a contract, wages, health insurance etc.) none of this would matter to them, it may, however, matter to the acountants who pay their wages. the artists are removed from the situation.
the accountants want me to pay for the initial mp3. if i can't hear it on the (playlisted) radio how else am i going to hear it, other than via friends, or at a club, pub, bar, shop, on tv, or whatever? do clubs have to pay the RIAA an amount that varies with the door count?
the interlinked (amazon-style) artists on services like audiogalaxy help me discover new seams of untapped music, which i am then much more likely to spend even more money on. there's just too much music for me to have to rely on randomly buying tunes or cd's reccomended me by advertising campaigns, which can lead to being left feeling conned, when the album turns out not to be 'the best of ...' anything.
putting it simplistically, what artists i have met seem to want is for people to hear their music, and to be able to make more music. money is a means to facilitate this.

Marquis - 'EMI need not be blowing $80 million on firing Mariah Carey, Sony need not expend $25M promoting Destiny's Child. If the RIAA and ClearChannel could create an environment where good music, not payola and mass-marketing, resulted in airplay, well, everyone would benefit. They'd save money, we'd hear better tunes, and CDs would cost what they should.'

Thought it bore repeating, well said.

Oh, does anybody know why cd's cost more than vinyl in the uk? the production costs for vinyl are higher, i believe.
is it the same in the us?
posted by asok at 4:35 PM on May 29, 2002

It's all just BS, asok. Here (in Montreal), I generally see vinyl for the same money or (more consistently) for more money than CDs. I guess because they're "hipper". Presumably in Britain CDs have more of a cachet, so the labels can charge more.

Further proof that the prices are just pulled out of their asses: cassette tapes definitely cost more to produce than CDs, and they sell for significantly less. growl.
posted by Marquis at 6:04 PM on May 29, 2002

Canada also has the cheapest legal CD's in the world. (I wish I could find the source, sorry) They are definitely considerably cheaper than the UK, anyway. Vinyl is probably similarly priced in both places, but the prices of CD's are different.

fwiw, Vinyl is also more expensive here in Calgary, (and CD's are more expensive here than in Montreal)
posted by sauril at 10:57 PM on May 29, 2002

time for me to get my 2 cents worth...as a former rock n roll disc jockey and program director, I remember the time when we transitioned to an all cd library.

When cd's first came out, the record cartel promised that the price would come down when more pressing plants were built. Never happened.

The blank cassette tape once threatened the vinyl record cartel's greed machine, but they settled that with a tax on all blank tape, audio and video, sold. At this time, much was made of the concept "fair use."

In an RIAA guest column, Miles Copeland argues that a per unit cd cost should include all studio time, advertising and promotion, all tour expenses...every receipt be factored into the cd's sale. He probably also would include a share of the administrative overhead of running a record label, too. Then he says they can't sell a cd for the actual price it costs them, they must lose money--even at $15 a copy--until the label has a back catalog to supply the river of gold.

Copeland has just told us the record cartel as they now do business DO NOT HAVE A VIABLE BUSINESS MODEL. Maybe he should reinvent the business. Or the Internet will do it for him, as it is doing right now.

Sign artists to a label contract for one album at a time; pay all record execs a flat $30k salary; no exorbitant artist advances; other contract reforms that Henley and other artists have been demanding. In other words, do not set it up so that an artist ends up owing more money than they can pay, and more records than they can reasonably make. Lower the ante.

I have promoted more records with airplay, bought more cd's in my lifetime and shared the music with friends for the sheer joy of it. Fair use allows me to convert any cd I own into the cassette, mp3 or whatever form to hear it. If I want to share it, not sell it, then that is lawful.

Once I used to think the record cartel split a chunk of money from the cd sale for the artist. Then I heard of those old blues legends, and golden oldie artists who are broke and were ripped off by the record people back in the day. Some of them kept on and have established health plans, put some money in the bank and have regained the rights to their old masters. But not because Hilary Rosen saw to it.

I never hear the record cartel brag about how much better the music artists lives and careers are because they provide so well for them...401ks, health plans, retirement homes, etc. They cannot prove it, so they don't say it.

That in itself, speaks loudly enough. end-of-rant. --G
posted by goodhelp at 1:13 AM on May 30, 2002

As for vinyl prices vs. cd prices, I think there are several variables in the mix. In the last five years, I have never seen vinyl versions of major label cheaper than their cd counterparts. In most cases, the vinyl versions are actually considerably more expensive because they are imported from the UK. For independent label stuff, I find most lps are priced around $7.99 - $9.99 in stores. This is usually a dollar or two under the cd prices. However, double and triple lp albums always cost more, and audiophile vinyl (180 gram and higher) will cost more. For what it's worth, most reissues of "classic" albums (Beatles, etc.) tend to be on audiophile vinyl, so that might also contribute to the price.
posted by ry at 7:00 AM on May 30, 2002

more than satisfactory for all but the most demanding listening situations and/or material

My point ;-)
posted by walrus at 8:28 AM on May 30, 2002

People keep saying that the price of CDs hasn't come down, but in fact this simply isn't true. Even if the average cost had stayed the same -- which it didn't, there are far more big discounters now than there were at the introduction of the CD, and you can often get new releases for $12 -- the inflation-adjusted price has come down significantly.
posted by kindall at 8:54 AM on May 30, 2002

more than satisfactory for all but the most demanding listening situations and/or material

My point ;-)

Yeah, but c'mon, if you're listening on your computer, or at the office, or while jogging, or in the car, that is not exactly a demanding listening situation. I can tell the difference between CD and MP3 on my Vandersteen 2Ces, but most of the music I listen to doesn't come out of those speakers anymore, because they're not very portable.

posted by kindall at 8:56 AM on May 30, 2002

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