For the well-rewarded executives in the music industry, it's not enough for them to have comfortable jobs, good salaries, and the moral high ground. Oh, no, they want to be loved, too. Or at least respected.
So it is that Paul Birch, from Revolver Records contacted Andrew Dubber of New Music Strategies to complain, bully and cajole him to take down material that was critical of the RIAA-IFPI-BPI strategy:
Dubber's blog is nothing to do with the University for which he works, but even if it was, since universities are meant to encourage knowledge and debate, surely questioning the behaviour of organisations is a perfect use of their resources? "Indiscriminate" is in the eye of the beholder, of course, and you could counter that the lawsuits raised by the RIAA - with their targeting of the dead and preteen and non-computer owners - demonstrate a certain amount of indiscrimination on their part. Does this also mean that we are not supposed to debate if redirecting police and trading standards officers to pursue the record company anti-piracy agenda is appropriate?
Andrew Dubber's response was polite, and - besides pointing out, gently, that the blog wasn't publiclly-funded, asked Paul what upset him. Birch gave one of those replies people usually do when they don't have any facts to back up their initial thundering:
However, I stand by my assertion.
If you're watching this season of Big Brother, you'll have seen Charlie doing something similar to this - when challenged on something she's been mouthing off about, she'll insist that she's not bothered enough to go on about it, but still insist on her position firmly in the right.
It's curious that Birch is happy to send an email alleging misuse of public funds by allowing indiscriminate criticism, but not to actually identify what might have underpinned that claim. Some students of English might think that makes Birch's criticism itself slightly indiscriminate. Dubber replied, pressing again for specifics, and Birch decided that he would have a crack at that thesis, after all.
If you have tears, prepare to shed them now:
Let's just park the delicious mention that the 'sue 'em all' strategy has a supersecretcodename, and try not to snicker that it sounds like the sort of thing the wannabe suitfillers on The Apprentice would have chosen to brand a pair of sneakers.
The poor people at the RIAA are getting nasty emails, can you imagine? Now, sending any sort of communication to a person designed to harass, threaten or simply insult them is unacceptable behaviour, but for an organisation sending out large numbers of letters, on slim (and sometimetimes non-existent) suspicion of filehsaring, demanding thousands and thousands of pounds under threat of legal action to complain that people are responding by sending angry emails is a bit rich.
But there's more:
No! Not being spoken about on the internet? How Mitch Bainwol's soul must be scorched by people suggesting he's not perhaps the most inspiring of people.
Every so often the RIAA like to tell us that, by taking on terrorists funding themselves through flogging dodgy CDRs of Enrique Ingelias albums, they are our first line of defence in a terrible world. Now, it turns out, every time these superheroes read a blog posting which questions the strategy of suing grandmothers and postmen for hundreds of thousands, they're so weak they die a little inside.
There are two possibilities here: Either the RIAA believe in their strategy, in which case you'd have thought they could take the critiques on their manly chins; or else they know they're in the wrong, in which case they have the option of changing their strategy and stopping the negative commentaries.
But, seriously: the RIAA said they had to act because filesharing was widepsread. So, they set out to force a large number of people to change their behaviour through the threat of punitive legal action. Why, exactly, are they surprised this isn't popular? Did it never occur to them this route could lead, at best, to grudging, unwilling compliance?
Still, at least he's getting to the point now:
I am not concerned that people decide to take out law-suits against our organisations; we have the resources to deal with that. What does concern me however is the repeating of malicious falsehoods that occur in a number of internet blog, and are re-reported as having validity contribute widely to the assertion that right is on the side of wrong-doing.
After a bit more probing from Andrew, the music industry man offers the link he's talking of: a posting on DownloadSquad commenting on a number of counterclaims a woman has filed in a case brought against her by Universal Music Group.
Now, it's fair comment that DownloadSquad doesn't mince its words, but surely Paul Birch isn't objecting to the very mention of the countersuing? The IFPI can't be wanting to have its cake and eat it, with their legal actions attracting the publicity and coverage they're designed to while counteractions should be hidden by some sort of D-notice?
Does Birch object to the language used by DownloadSquad? Such as this bit, perhaps?
Robust, perhaps, but the blog is careful to acknowledge the case isn't a done deal, and - let's face it - and industry which sells heavy metal music to teenagers shouldn't go to pieces when the language gets turned up to 11, should it?
It's also interesting that Birch attempts to suggest Del Cid's attempt to defend herself against a legal action is on a par with the case of a judge suing a cleaners for $54million dollars over a lost pair of trousers. (By the way, Mr. Birch, the verdict hasn't been delivered in that case at time of writing - if you're suggesting that DownloadSquad are being malicious by implying that allegations made in open court are actually proven facts, perhaps you ought to look to your own assumptions first. Unless, of course, there's a totally different case involving trousers and Chinese laundries of which I'm unaware.)
The trouser case is a prosecution that has been launched by an individual and, to most people, looks to be totally out-of-kilter to the damage done. Ms Cid, however, hasn't embarked on a prosecution out of nowhere; she's responding to Universal's intusion into her life. To suggest the two cases are in any way similar shows either a poor grasp of law, or a flagrant disregard for facts.
Birch then goes a bit ballistic:
It is, of course, terrible that people are losing their jobs in the music industry, but those jobs would disappear just as surely if people are listening to Last FM or YouTube. The sad fact of the digital future is that it's going to require fewer people. Fewer drivers and warehousepeople and salespeople. Without wanting to get into an argument as to if the numbers of jobs lost would have been higher or lower if the major labels had managed the transition more smoothly, the more pressing question is how this observation bears any relevance to the post on DownloadSquad for which Dubber is being berated (for linking to, remember - not actually writing). The post is about the way the RIAA conducts its lawsuits, not about the issue of copyright theft. It's as if someone had written a post on speed cameras being a dubious thing getting ticked off for promoting hit and run driving.
Because, of course, accusing people of theft, of forcing the loss of livelihoods for people, of funding terrorism and laundering drug money - the sort of allegation the RIAA makes frequently - isn't serious.
Dubber offers a defence of his reasons for linking to the original piece, and offers to publicise Birch's counterargument.
But the DownloadSquad piece, of course, doesn't hold particularly extreme views - unless any dissent is, in the RIAA worldview, in itself so outrageous as to be xtreme. The post certainly doesn't mention any manager, either by name or through implication, and, since it clearly is suggesting the correct forum for these differences to be settled is in a California coutrtoom, is hardly calling for anyone to be hounded.
Birch's final response, though, is the most interesting:
Paul is quick to make clear that he's speaking in a personal capacity, and not as a rep of the IFPI. Which is ironic, since he's threatening to complain to Andrew's employer about something that Andrew is producing in a personal capacity.
Our understanding of what he's just said is that Duffer should take down a link to something because it's what a person thinks, and if he doesn't he will make trouble at Duffer's place of work. Now, maybe it wasn't intended to come across as quite such a bullying threat - you can't tell with email, can you? - but the very idea that nobody should link to websites where people hold opinions different to those of the RIAA is quite an eye-opener, isn't it?