Thursday, January 18, 2007

RIAA turn heavy-handed attention to mixtape DJs

The RIAA have been defending sending in the Atlanta police to raid the offices of DJ Drama and other high-profile DJs, including the arrest of Drama and others:

Brad Buckles, executive vice president of the RIAA's Anti-Piracy Division in Washington, D.C., said the case was developed in Atlanta. For more than a year, police have been investigating the manufacture and distribution of pirated material in the city and "during that time, we've been working with police and picking up pirated product, going back and forth with local law enforcement to figure out where it's coming from," Buckles said. "[Tuesday's raid] was just one of the many series of raids that have occurred."

It's wonderful that Atlanta is such a peaceful place the local cops have time to pop into record shops and devote thousands of hours to closing down the sale of a few mixtapes. We can only suppose that the rates of robberies and aggravated robberies which were running at three times the national average in 2004 has been brought back under control. And that one in 940 women are no longer being raped in Atlanta.

The RIAA could, of course, have tried to find a way to bring mixtapes within the law, but instead, they prefer calling in the cops:

Buckles was vague when asked about the product that had been seized, saying that he only knew what he had read in the report: that "the product violated state law" and that "I'm given to understand that the CDs also contained a variety of works and different artists" that weren't licensed or cleared, and were being sold illegally.

When asked if Tuesday's raid was part of a larger series of raids targeting mixtapes, Buckles said, "We don't consider this being against mixtapes as some sort of class of product. We enforce our rights civilly or work with police against those who violate state law. Whether it's a mixtape or a compilation or whatever it's called, it doesn't really matter: If it's a product that's violating the law, it becomes a target."

Which, of course, is his right to say. And is exactly what you'd expect from people who see only two sorts of music - licensed and unlicensed. The mixtape culture is part of a vibrant world of young people enjoying, enthusing and responding to music - the sort of thing the RIAA should be supporting, if it wants to be around in ten year's time.

Why send in the cops? Why not sit down and try and find a solution that would allow mixtapes to thrive while ensuring original artists don't lose out? A series of 'fair use' rules, perhaps, or looking at a licensing deal which allowed time-limited extracts of original works to be used for a flat rate, which could be shared amongst all composers? The RIAA could respond creatively to demand. But the music industry has nothing to do with creativity.


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