Thursday, October 02, 2003

PITY THE POOR MIDDLEMEN: The downloading show has rolled into the senate, with Mitch Bainwol happily lying to the Senate Governmental Affairs subcommittee that the whole suing thing? That was, like, the last resort; but hey - what else could they do faced with a tanking market. Except, of course, the continued buoyant sales of albums in the UK proves that downloading can't be the cause of the record industry's woes - certainly not the main one - and, even more of course, that the RIAA's members have had something like five years to put together a legitimate alternative to the download networks and so far have got around to a couple of half-assed versions.

Meanwhile, LL Cool J sent a message to all the boys that he doesn't enjoy the concept of his house being violated: "My question is, if a contractor builds a building, should people be allowed to move into the building for free?" he asked. Maybe not, but if there are people in the street in need of a home, and the builder doesn't put a lock on the door, and... dammit, I'm not going to be bogged down in your metaphor, James. he continued: "that’s how I feel if I record a song or make a movie, and it zooms around the world for free." Ah, but is a song on Kazaa a building like a house, or is it a building like a showroom? That's the quest... dammit, no.

Chuck D took issue with LL: "P2P to me means power to the people. I trust the consumer more than I trust the people at the helm of these (record) companies. LL’s a staunch American," he added in a brief interview. "He’s my man and all, man, but when you solely have an American state of mind, you’re increasingly becoming a smaller part of the world."

The hearing was called by Minnesota Republican Norm Coleman, worried by the bullying tactics of the RIAA: "As a former prosecutor, I am troubled by a strategy that uses the law to threaten people into submission." Splendidly, Norm used to roadie for Ten Years After and called Chuck and Ladies Love Mr. D and Mr. J, which makes them sound more like suspects in a rape case than rap stars. Although, of course, rape suspects these days tend to be known by their shirt numbers than their initials. (Just on a side note here: Have Popbitch put a block on mentioning the names of the footballers under investigation? And if they have/ did, would that be tantamount to identifying them, since you could conclude that a name blocked had been blocked for that reason?)

An example of how the RIAA campaign has been hitting harder than it needs was given by the testimony of Lorraine Sullivan, a 28 year old student from New York. Discovering that she could be liable for up to USD150,000 a song, she said "I thought my life was over, and that I’d have to file for bankruptcy." She eventually settled with the RIAA for USD2500, money which we're sure Mick Jagger is sweating on.

So far, the RIAA have squeezed cash out of a massive 51 of the estimated six million regular filesharers in the US. Record sales have yet to pick up as a result. The RIAA campaign has done fuck all for their industry, but it's fucked up some individuals chosen more or less at random. They may, strictly, have the law on their side. But then so did John Major when he sued WH Smiths for selling a magazine that suggested he might have been having an affair. Being right doesn't make you any less of an amoral bully.

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