October 08, 2007
Why Do They Sue? The RIAA won their case against Jammie Thomas in a decision that's going to cost her $222,000. She's going to lose a good healthy chunk of her $32,000 salary for the rest of her life. $9,250 per song. Think she could have bought her friends a few CDs for that kind of money?
But the case wasn't always considered a slam dunk, and there are still some folks who question her guilt. There's still the second-thoughts -- should she have just taken the RIAA's settlement offer of $5,000? This is a case that's going to set precedent. And it's an expensive precedent. It's going to be expensive for some people -- and some peoples' parents, who are going to be liable for their kids' collections of illegal downloads.
I've been pondering the irony of one aspect of the case. Technology is to blame, they say, for the sad state of the music industry. Technology is making it possible to pirate music, and share it with people all over the world. BUT technology is also making it possible for the industry to catch these pirates. It's easier to catch them now than it ever was before.
Think about it for a minute. Back in the '80s, we all made tapes for our friends. I discovered a LOT of music my freshman year at Liberty, thanks to the guy next door who had a broad collection of bands. Prodigal, Servant, Allies, Bash-n-The-Code -- all new experiences for me, and fueled by what the RIAA calls music piracy.
Funny thing is, I actually bought more music because of those tapes. I spent a LOT of money in school buying music. I made tapes for my friends, and THEY bought more music. The mix tape made the recording industry a TON of money back in the day, and they couldn't stop us.
The mix tapes, and bootleg tapes, and copy tapes -- they all had one benefit. They were anonymous. You got them from a friend's friend, or your roommate, or a friend's cousin, or something like that. There were no IP addresses, and no user IDs. Nobody could trace you, because there was nothing to trace. And RIAA never sued anyone.
Now, they can track people down. IP numbers can be logged, user names are tracked down. Viruses are spread sometimes, and offenders can be traced that way. The very technology that RIAA is complaining about is what is making their lawsuits possible to begin with.
RIAA is realizing how irrelevant labels are becoming. RIAA sees the light at the end of the tunnel, and it's a train, getting ready to run them over. Musicians don't need them, and now music fans are starting to see that they don't need them either.
Do Musicians Need Record Labels Anymore? Note: This is the first in what I'm hoping is going to be an ongoing thing. Each Monday I'll have a few posts about music: the music industry, musicians, etc. I've been writing a lot about music lately, and I want to keep on doing it, but there are other things I want to write about, too, so the music posts will go on Mondays, unless it's something breaking or urgent.
Techdirt had a piece today about musicians and "venture capitalists" (record labels). It made me think about the functions of a record label, and whether bands need them anymore. Lets think about what labels actually do for their bands: more...
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