Thursday, June 08, 2006


Given a chance to speak directly to the public, the RIAA's Cary Sherman and Mitch Bainwol could have taken the opportunity to try and shift the public perception of the organisation as being a money-grubbing bunch of heartless automatons.

They didn't.

[CNET News]: Do your view your lawsuits, even ones where you sued a 12-year-old girl or a Boston grandmother, as a success overall and do you think the process is working?
Sherman: Yes. We're feeling pretty good. There will be the opportunity for business models that are consistent with P2P networks (such as demo versions or low quality). There have been a lot of conversations recently about ad-supported models.

Bainwol: Now there is additional legal clarity.

They're feeling pretty good about suing preteens and the Boston grandmother (the latter case, of course, was a lawsuit against a woman who the RIAA had to admit hadn't even got a filesharing program on her computer.) It does make you wonder what it would take for them to feel bad.

However, there are some curious little statements in the interview:

Sherman: We've long accepted the notion that you're not going to have a pirate-proof system. The idea is to leave that to the hacking community. Most people want to get it legitimately.

Here, Sherman's talking primairily about digital radio, but we're a little puzzled: the RIAA is comfortable that you can't have a pirate proof system? And yet if "most people" want to get their music legitimately (if they can), what's the point in all the legal activity, then? Let me get this straight: you're suing people to bully them into behaving in the way they want to anyway?

The pair then get asked about DRM:

Bainwol: The world at large is not aware of DRM as an issue. Nobody feels any real problem with it.

That's probably broadly true - out of the six billion people on the planet, it's a very small portion of people who are yet exercised by the issue. Unfortunately, those that are are the same small portion who buy the RIAA's products.

Sherman: It's the ideologues who are focused on it. There's a great article by Jim DeLong that asks how you think there should be rallies outside supermarkets using technology preventing you from taking away shopping carts.

So, Sherman believes that a piece of music is an artefact that should be compared with a shopping trolley. Curious. Of course, this is such a weak analogy even Sherman should see the weakness in it - a shopping trolley is something provided free by a shop to allow people to shop more easily. If shops put technology in place stopping customers from taking out the products they've paid for - or, say, preventing them from using their loaves to feed ducks, that would be similar to what DRM does. And, no, you still wouldn't see protests outside the stores. People would just shop elsewhere.

[CNET] Could the DRM debate flare up again because of public missteps like Sony's rootkit-enabled CDs?
Sherman: DRM has just gotten a bad rap based on this notion that it's going to restrict consumer choice.

Bainwol: It's a proxy for an almost ideological fight on fair use.
Sherman: The fight over DRM will almost fade away as business models (become more flexible).

Perhaps Sherman was too busy thinking about supermarket trollies to notice what happened with Sony's DRM: it introduced Spyware onto computers, opened backdoors into computers that could have been exploited by hackers, and wound up costing Sony millions.

Oh, and DRM was described as "potentially threatening lives" by, erm, Sherman's own RIAA. Presumably they were using that as a proxy in their ideological fight.

Most eye-popping of all, though, comes the opening figure in the report. The RIAA - funded by money from the record labels - has a budget of around twenty-five million dollars. They're always complaining that illegal downloading takes cash from the artists - maybe they ought to ask the musicians if they'd rather those millions were spent on the RIAA offices, or given back to people who actually make music?

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