Friday, December 26, 2008

The RIAA filesharing lawsuits: a new chapter

I have been meaning to write something about the creative legal assaults on the RIAA filesharing lawsuits. First, I was impressed by the fact that Jammie Thomas’ attorney Brian Todder had convinced the court to overturn the jury verdict in her trial in Minnesota and I was similarly impressed by a Harvard law professor’s constitutional challenge against the RIAA in his defense of Boston University student Joel Tennenbaum. I am not an advocate of illegal downloading, I just think that the file sharing lawsuits are not the right way to address the problems of the record business.

However, I was not prepared for the article in the December 19, 2008 Wall Street Journal which indicated that the RIAA was poised to abandon its legal assault on file sharing. The article did not specifically say whether the decision would affect all existing suits or simply apply to new suits. There is also some potentially troubling news about an alliance between the RIAA and various ISPs that sounds a little like the Patriot Act ver. 2.I can’t help but think that some of these recent developments made the RIAA less confident of their strategy. On the other hand, perhaps they finally realized the stupidity of suing their own customers. This was a bad idea to begin with. As far as I can tell, the lawsuits had no discernible effect on the worst offenders. The music industry needs to find a way to embrace the new generation of music fans and bring them into the fold. I don’t know if anybody has the idea but lots of people have good ideas. I am old enough to remember some of the great marketing Warner Bros. did in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s which made people life long fans of many of its acts. They basically gave away a lot of free music to anyone who would pay for postage. I can’t help but think that this was more effective than suing a bunch of college students and high school kids.

1 comment:

Edward Brinson said...

Great article Trip. I remember getting into a heated, but friendly, debate with a musician neighbor of mine years ago about the effect down loading was having on the business. He insisted that downloaders should be prosecuted. (You may know him, Shane Hicks) I always felt this 'moral' stand missed the point. Sure it might feel good to go after folks who wanted their music for free but the industry was already in decline prior to mp3s.
Artists need to, and as far as I can see many have, figure out how to make a living within the current evolving system. The real losers will be the corporations....boohoo.

I use to worry that great outfits like Grimey's have their days limited, but then I realized that Grimey's isn't purely about selling product. Mike has created his own scene. He's thought it through. Tower records and their ilk are history but Mike and other independents can make it I think.

Talk to you soon.