RIAA Goes Down Kicking And Screaming





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Maybe it was those viral videos featuring an animated, gorilla-like James Hetfield screaming "Napster bad!", but chances are if you came of age during the onset of peer-to-peer file sharing, the threat of lawsuits-however small they might have been and still are-has never been far out of mind.

But what's easy to forget in today's climate of plummeting CD sales is that back in 2000, the music industry was running at an all-time high, with more than 785 million discs sold that year alone. Indeed, during that dark time when Fred Durst was a household name, many of those with a decent Internet connection were doing what amounted to the grown-up version of the Nickelodeon Super Toy Run.

And while it goes without saying what happened to Napster Mk. 1, the then-euphoric state of the music industry hardly prompted the sweeping and merciless deterrent strategies we see today. To be clear, the learning curve of today's bit torrents, boutique file sharing hubs and obscure music blogs is decidedly higher than in the good ol' days. It was easier to steal music in 2000 if you had a fast connection. But with the RIAA surfing on a wave of Justins and Britneys, litigation wasn't as necessary of a disciplinary action. People, after all, were still buying. As a result, legal action was a rarer beast, often used for scare tactics. The familiar story never seemed to involve real MP3 junkies, but unlucky saps with a handful of tunes (and maybe I'm imagining things, but they always seemed to go for Destiny's Child) and some very bad luck.

But back to those sweeping deterrent strategies. Three weeks into 2008, the fate of the recording industry is looking irreparably dim: Sales are down a startling 36 percent from eight years ago. Meanwhile, mashable.com reports that the Warner Music Group made "less than half the amount of money that Radiohead did for [2007]," thanks to a costly campaign of suing the bejesus out of people who likely resembles those responsible for the boom of CD purchases at the beginning of the century.

That group-surprise-largely comprises the present generation of college students. As the Daily Cal reported in last Thursday's article "Recording Industry Mails Pre-Lawsuit Letters," 26 students, most of whom reside in campus housing, got bitchslapped with pre-litigation letters from the RIAA. To be fair, these students received warning: Dorm orientation nowadays includes "Reefer Madness"-style threats against what could happen for downloading in your dorm. And what's more, p2p sharing is outdated and traceable compared to more recent forms of pirating, and a lot of these kids probably live closer to Amoeba than I do to a bus stop.

But maybe that's the media packrat-the hopeless commodity fetishist-in me talking. As much as I pity the fool for getting caught, I can't condemn them for trying, nor can one deny that if you're the type who still buys music, downloading has positive effects too. Go into Rasputin and notice that the likes of the Beatles and Led Zeppelin lurk in the lower echelons of the store's best-seller charts. Unless there's some clever markettng going on from Apple Corps, these are likely Clear Channel radio kids looking for something new and exciting. Good for them. And perhaps the most ass-backwards part of it all is that some of the biggest download fiends are also the most fervent buyers. These are the people who will take the big hit from the takedown of obscurity paradise oink.cd last fall.

Unfortunately, no one in the resident halls has challenged the RIAA. This may be an admission of guilt, perhaps an aversion to surrendering one's computer or just not wanting to challenge it and risk steeper consequences.

Regardless, with labels like EMI pulling out of the RIAA, it's looking less and less like this strategy of monetary rape is going anywhere. The music industry will be the first to collapse because pirated music gets you closest to the real experience. Unless you're a bleeding-heart audiophile, 128kbps isn't going to set you into a panic attack.

The MPAA should take note. The quality of pirated film is still no substitute for DVD, but when we get there, it has in the RIAA a perfect example of what not to do: Giving their former customers an evil empire they want to see die. Good riddance.


Ilegally download Sean at [email protected]



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