Wednesday, August 14, 2002

CARY BEARS HIS SOUL: President of the RIAA stuck his head in the gob of Blogcritics and agreed to answer some questions about the American Music Industry's approach to various web- and technology related issues. While encouraging that he bothered, the results were the sort of whitewash and half-truth that stands for the best of American Corporations when they attempt to talk (down) to their consumers.
There's a lot to chew on, so we'd recommend that you read the whole transcript for yourself. But we have a few quibbles we'd like to raise ourselves - Sherman's quotes in purple:

Actually, we're not lobbying for copy-restriction technologies.
Depends what you mean by lobbying for, doesn't it? While the RIAA might not be pushing for funding for copy protection, it's only because they don't need to. What they are lobbying for, however, is the right of their members to use copy protection measures even where it causes problems for the consumer's machines: "In response to [Congressman Rick] Boucher's letter [Boucher wanted to protect purchaser's fair usage rights], the RIAA cited the harm to the recording industry from the illicit downloading of music, and pointed to CD copy protection measures as a means of curbing the practice." see also: techlawjournal 4th March 2002

Each company decides on its own whether to use such technology, and so far, only one major has done so for commercial releases in the U.S., and then only on four albums
As usually happens, they're testing it out on European markets to see how it goes down and smooth out the glitches - you know us Brits, far less likely to bring class actions when our Macs get rendered unusable

ALL releases with copy protection on them have been labeled, by the way. Don't believe rumors that companies are secretly putting copy-protected CDs into the market
Nowhere near as prominent as they 'parental advisory' label, though, is it?

As for crashing computers, I know that there have been reports of that out of Europe. That's one of the reasons the US labels are proceeding so cautiously, because they don't want the consumer to have a bad experience.
The US labels, of course, have no connection with the European labels ruining people's equipment. Not the same Sony, Virgin, EMI, Universal... at all, then?

You mention Enhanced CDs. As it happens, lots of consumers have had trouble with Enhanced CDs, because they may not play on all devices.
This is disingenuous - Enhanced CDs don't play on all devices; of course you can't get the video to work on an audio player. And some of the E-CD material that's meant to work on computers doesn't, but that's besides the point - it's usually a rubbishy geegaw anyway, and itsn't the same thing as the whole of the CD being rendered useless; furthermore - as far as I know - there's never been any record of someone having to call in an engineer to open their CD because an Enchanced CD has crashed the machine and won't allow it to reboot.

P2P in particular can really be a fabulous technology - but right now it's doing far more harm than good. (So our surveys show.)
Well, it's probably true that from an RIAA perspective, P2P is being used for bad (non-charged) swapping more than good (royalty paying) purposes. But who's fault is that? Maybe if the recording industry had had its wits about it, it could have been exploiting the technology. It's still not really come up with any effective way of using it, so the market for P2P music downloads - and its a huge one - has no choice but to go to the darkside. If I wanted a copy of a new Oasis track on my computer right now, it would make no difference if I wanted to pay $12, $2, or ten cents - I can't do it. Give me a couple of minutes, and I can have an illegal one in my Itunes folder moaning away. There might be a lesson there.

As for the need for RIAA (and presumably record companies), there will always be a need for record companies...
Again, this sidesteps the original question, which was about the need for a cash-rich lobbyist group rather than record companies at all. But since they bring it up...

...they are the venture capital companies of the music business.
Were, more like. Nowadays, record companies don't do the grooming and developing of artists - they expect management companies to do that. Indeed, one famous manager was heard complaining recently that labels nowadays expect acts to turn up with photos, first album, dance routines and so on. Meanwhile, labels drop acts if the first album doesn't sell. Record companies are whittling their activities down to little more than pressing and promoting rather than supporting artists through the development of their first couple of albums and the early stage of their careers. If that trend continues, sooner or later people are going to twig that they don't really do that much any more...

I think you've been misled about what the Berman bill would do. [...] It would not allow, and we would never seek the right, to go into people's computers and "scan" their files.
Erm... hang on a moment - I've checked the Bill, and while it expressly forbids alteration, deletion or imapiring the integrity of any computer file of data, there's not a single word that forbids scanning of hard drives - indeed, since the wording of the act throws in anyone making anything available on a peer to peer network, it's clear that the Bill would be useless if the copyright holders weren't able to check what files were being held on hard drives.

Some of the majors have recently announced price reductions (99 cents a track, $1.49 a track, etc.)
$1.49 a track - even 99 cents a track - is daylight robbery. Albeit not in the same way that music downloads are theft, but only a schmuck is going to pay $1.49 for a track that would cost the same - or less - when it's distributed physically, with all the extra staff, infrastructure

I hate that term, by the way. To me, "sharing" means we each get a little less. If I share my pie, I only get to eat half. If I share my car, I can't use it when the other person has it. "Filesharing" however means we each get the whole thing, and noboby gives up anything! That's not sharing, it's publishing!
Jesus, is that what the RIAA are coming down to? If we must debate at this sub Doctor Seuss level, my wife and I shared a moment of passion last night. We both got the whole enchilada. Okay? Now, back to grown-up debate:

In 2001, sales were off by 10% in the US. That's a huge drop. Sales are down more than 10% so far this year (according to SoundScan). What's more, this is happening around the world, not just in the U.S. It's hard to think that people suddenly don't like the new music being offered in countries as diverse as the US, Japan, Germany, Sweden, the UK, etc.
But what all these countries have in common is growing Internet access and increasing numbers of CD burners and burgeoning sales of blank CD-R discs. Get the idea?

Okay, in order -
In 2001, sales were off by 10% in the US
it's the economy, stupid. The Christian Science Monitor, for example, was reporting back in December how retail sales had dropped 3.7% the previous month; that between August and December consumer confidence had nosedived. Clearly, the music industry has experienced some of the hit that comes from an economy screwing up - and with people suddenly discovering its pensions and investments aren't as strong as they'd been led to believe, of course non-essential impulse purchases are going to be down.
What's more, this is happening around the world, not just in the U.S
The UK - probably the second home for Internet downloadage - saw a 5% rise in sales in 2001
It's hard to think that people suddenly don't like the new music being offered in countries as diverse as the US, Japan, Germany, Sweden, the UK, etc
Is it? Why? Isn't it just as hard to imagine that people are going to go on buying more and more music, year in, year out? Especially with shiny new exciting things like DVD coming along to tempt their alreaady-reduced free cash in other directions. Especially when there's very little on the big labels to excite us.
But what all these countries have in common is growing Internet access and increasing numbers of CD burners and burgeoning sales of blank CD-R discs. Get the idea?
Sorry, did the bleeding from the front of my head disturb you? I did that banging it repeatedly on my desk. I get through a couple of spindles of CD-Rs in a good month. None of them for music. It's for sending designs to printers and archiving my Hard Drive. The record companies were on dodgy ground when they tried to suggest that every blank tape was a stolen LP; the reason why CD-Rs are skyrocketing is because they're the only cheap solution to storing massive amounts of data. All figures for sales of CD equipment designed to copy music point to a low take-up. The sale of white trousers and numbers of people going to discos could be tied together, but it would be based on a major, and wrong, assumption that everyone who pulls on white keks is going to be going to strut under a mirrorball. The belief that every blank CD is going to be put to use holding an unpaid for edition of a Red Hot Chilli Peppers album is similar nonesense.

In a study we'll be releasing soon ... 19% [of downloaders] said they purchased more, while 41% said they purchased less.
So, less than half purchase less because of downloading, then? That seems to be pretty good to me, even before we see the questions you asked, and get a look at the methodology (when you say 'less', do you actually mean less than they would have been anyway, or less than last year, or what, precisely?)

In 2000, the top ten albums sold 60 million units in the U.S. In 2001, they sold 40 million units. Seven albums sold over 5 million copies in 2000; none did in 2001
But as we've seen on No Rock..., the top 50 concerts are also seeing a similar drop in how much business they're doing. That suggests its the content that's turning people off, rather than the ability to download stuff off the net

Copyright law specifically allows certain kinds of archival copies of software, but not of music, movies, books or anything else. In fact, in the Texaco case, the court held that making archival copies of scientific papers was not a fair use.
Um... and the relevancy of Texaco archiving scientific papers to whether or not there's a legal right to copy the CD you've paid for to your own MP3 player is... anyone? Anyone at all?
The law in the UK gives you the right to do what you like with a CD in private. You have the right to copy it onto any format you wish, so that you can play it back to yourself. I have no reason to believe, from what I've seen, that the situation is any different in the US. The RIAA are attempting to use technology to remove this long-held right..

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