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RIAA drops mass lawsuits- why it's not time to celebrate

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Saturday, Dec 20, 2008

First, the supposed good news.  The RIAA says that it’s going to stop the flood of downloader lawsuits.  The reasons are obvious for this: 1) they weren’t cost-effective, 2) they made the industry look even worse.  On the first point, the majors had to spend millions of dollars in litigation fees to do the lawsuits in the first place and the money they were getting in return for settlements wasn’t coming close to making up for it.  That didn’t matter since the point was to scare people and not really to even out the field in terms of finance/balance sheets.  In terms of looking bad, the settlement money wasn’t going to the artists involved and didn’t exactly make home users embrace label-approved download sites.  In the last few years, a number of studies have said that unauthorized downloading had actually increased since the wave of RIAA lawsuits began.


And now for the bad news.  In a puff piece that’s slanted heavily towards the RIAA, the Wall Street Journal reports that the RIAA won’t totally end the lawsuits, which means that they’ll do them on a smaller, more individualized basis.  That means that they’re still going to use these scare tactics to single out and bully users in the hopes that others will cower though now, it’ll be less likely.  One reason for this may be that judgments haven’t been going the way of the RIAA lately, with some cases even questioning the whole legitimacy of the suits in the first place.


The WSJ article also notes that the RIAA will now go after ISP’s (Internet providers) to do their dirty work- they’ll try to make them hand out warnings and then cut off service to users.  As the article notes, it remains to be seen how compliant the ISP’s will be with that.  Most likely, any of them that snuggle up too close to the RIAA will be shunned by users in favor of other providers who don’t get as chummy with the labels.


Most importantly, the RIAA will still be around and still likely use more and more heavy-handed, wrong-headed tactics.  The lawsuits didn’t work so now they’ll find other ways to beat people up and try to stop unauthorized downloads.  Of course, the best way would be to find ways to make users want to pay for product in the first place but we’re talking about an industry group that values ligation over innovation so don’t be too surprised if they don’t change their ways any time soon. 


The majors have a remarkable talent for sinking themselves deeper and deeper.  If they go to Washington asking for a bailout like other industries are doing now, likely dragging along some stars for recognition, they’ll still likely to get a chilly reception and they’ll have have no one to blame but themselves (even though they never do take blame or responsibility for their own problems).


FOLLOW-UP: The Recording Industry Vs. the People blog (an excellent source of RIAA hijinx) says that the RIAA reports that it ended its mass lawsuits months ago is B.S. as they actually brought to court a bunch of them only a week ago.  Wonder what else they haven’t been truthful about…

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