Saturday, August 19, 2006


A new poll of US teenagers has discovered that they don't consider borrowing a CD off a friend and copying it to be wrong. This, despite the attempts of the RIAA to educate them that not paying for music is straight-to-hell behaviour up there alongside masturbation and peeking at your sister's friends during sleepover.

Or perhaps because of. To judge by the report in the Orlando Sentinel, the repeated mantra of 'it's wrong to download for free, you must pay for music' has delivered a confused message:

Evan met a girl he liked, he made her a CD filled with songs by Linkin Park, the Blue Man Group and Eiffel 65. Why was his CD OK while his friend's verboten? Because Evan paid for his music in the first place, he says.

"I think you're allowed to make, like, two or three copies of a CD you bought and give them to friends," says Evan. "It's only once you make five copies, or copy a CD of stolen music, that it's illegal."

So long as someone's paid for the CDs, it's fine, right?

Oddly, 80% of teens "know" that downloading music from grey sources "is wrong" (although, of course, clearly that doesn't mean they don't do it) and yet the RIAA admits that it loses far more money through people copying CDs for mates than it does through illicit downloading.

"We've made substantial progress educating people that downloading copyrighted music for free is illegal," says Mitch Bainwol, RIAA chairman. "But we still confront a significant challenge educating kids that copying a CD for a friend is also a crime. This is a major focus for the entire industry."

Except, of course, it isn't a focus for the industry at all - when did you last hear of anything like the campaign against downloading (or even the anti-piracy sales campaigns) targetting what they call "schoolyard copying"? It's not that they don't perceive it as a problem, it's just that it would be tricky:

But when it comes to stopping people from copying physical CDs, high-profile lawsuits are much less likely to occur. Prosecutors say it would be next to impossible to get one teen to testify in court that another had slipped them a copied disc at lunchtime. And besides, isn't sharing music a time-honored part of teen friendship?

Added to which, with this form of copying the RIAA would also have to demonstrate a loss - to prove that John Doe would have bought the CD from Best Buy if he'd not got it from his mate.

It would be a lot of trouble, even compared with the trouble trying to pursue downloaders through the courts. And just as the White House preferred to pursue Iraq rather than the slightly more dangerous North Korea, even although Korea was the bigger threat, the RIAA bang on and on about downloads and don't worry about the CD for mates problem.

Surely, if all copying is bad, the RIAA should do something about all of it? But if they're happy to turn a blind eye to the guys borrowing their mate's Mariah Carey down the gym, they should just accept they have to share the same blind eye for the odd spot of filesharing. Because sending out mixed messages just confuses people still further. And will end up hastening their inevitable lack of control.


ian said...

If home taping was killing music, wouldn't it be dead by now.

Oh, hello Mr Blunt.

I withdraw my point.

Anonymous said...

What's that noise?

It's the sound of a dinosaur howling as it staggers its final steps.

Music has been about before the dawn of man, so I wouldn't worry too much.

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