Friday, January 10, 2003

'We know we're pissing in the wind' admits RIAA

There's an interesting feature on BBC News Online about download sites and, more importantly, the RIAA's attitude to them. Even while they're attempting to bully universities into blocking all use of file-sharing applications (not just the swapping of copyright material), Cary Sherman has admitted they're never going to stop free music online:

"He said the aim was to bring the proliferation of sites under control so that business were (sic) free to continue to make money.

"Our aim is not to completely eliminate music piracy or illegal peer-to-peer services altogether," said Mr Sherman. "As long as it is within a reasonable amount of control then we will be happy but we are still a long way from that."

Um... hang about a minute - what are you saying? You spent all of last year getting Britney Spears to make a tit of herself with "downloading a track is the same as stealing a CD from a shop" and waving lawsuits about left, right and centre - and now you say you can peacefully coexist with music downloads?

Does this mean that - to use your own organisations metaphor - you'd be comfortable with people stealing CDs from shops, providing there's only a few of them? Is there a formula being held by the RIAA where we can calculate what an acceptable level would be? Three sites? Three hundred? Sixteen thousand tracks available? Two hundred thousand downloads worldwide every day? I'm totally confused, Mr. Sherman.

But it's not just Cary. Hilary Rosen has softened up, too:
"The overriding goal of our efforts to curb illegal internet music trafficking has been to foster an online environment where the legitimate services can succeed."

This is obviously a lie - the RIAA was smashing rocks into Napster's face long before any of their members had even a prototype 'legitimate' service; the policy was always to try and kill online music dead and if Napster has a legacy, it's more in forcing the major labels to accept their days of charging through the nose for distribution, pressing and stocking of plastic circles are numbered.

But we should welcome the shift of emphasis from Rosen, even if it is mealy-mouthed. What it boils down to is that RIAA have apparently realised over the Christmas Pudding and Brandy Butter that they've lost the argument, and lost the battle. Of course, they're not calling off the dogs yet, but, as the BBC reports:
Mr Sherman admitted that the only response to illegal peer-to-peer services was to promote "legal, attractive alternatives that will make consumers want to pay for their music."


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