RIAA lawsuits = terrorism

[6 October 2005]

By Jason Gross

Sure those are fightin’ words but the truth hurts.  How else are you going to describe a policy where you hunt for victims regardless if they’re ‘guilty’ or not of whatever vendetta you’re on.  Sounds kind of like the policy of suicide bombers who go about their dirty missions to get their point across, doesn’t it?

So how much nobler is the RIAA when they send out hundreds of lawsuits trying to thwart illegal downloading and they wind up nailing people who don’t even know what they’re being sued for?  This excellent story in Wired Magazine details this shameful practice: RIAA Takes Shotgun to Traders

Two encouraging trends you’ll note there are that some of the judges on these cases see how flimsy these suits are and some of the defendents are fighting back.  Needless to say, the RIAA claims that they haven’t done anything wrong (sounds like Bush-speak) but their strategy is a high-priced house of cards- they’ve been able to back up their threats with lawyers and suspect settlements so far but it’s likely that their tactics won’t hold up to further judicial scrutiny.  They’ve counted on that so far, figuring that all of the people they go after wouldn’t have enough money to do anything except to pay up thousands of dollars to settle and then sign a waver to shut up. 

Sooner or later, they were bound to go after the wrong person and/or someone who did have the resources to fight back.  In these cases, the RIAA itself might be forced to settle or withdraw their suit for fear that it’ll compromise future lawsuits.  In that case, if the defendant turns them down or counter-sues, the RIAA might be screwed.  A counter-suit would mean that their whole scare tactics would be called into question and, most likely, not hold up to legal scrutiny.  And then that defendent would become a hero and other downloaders would feel emboldened to go about their business as usual.

And then what’s left for the RIAA?  They’ve already shown utter contempt for consumers so little will be off limits now.  Search warrants and raids, maybe?  Strong-arming paid-off congressman to add some kind of rider to an anti-terrorist bill that includes tougher penalties and greater latitude for prosecuting downloaders?

Look at the RIAA’s board of directors and you see major reps from the big labels there, who obviously must be supporting these lawsuits- heard any of those people or their labels even mildly disagree with this?  Not that I know of.  Any artist on their label might also want to think long and hard if they want to be party to these sleazy tactics, supposedly done in their name (though the RIAA says that the artists aren’t entitled to any of the court settlements here).

You see, this is why people hate the majors.  Their contempt just breeds more contempt, in a never-ending cycle. 

To use another euphemism related to terrorism, think of America’s Middle East policy- we invade, bomb and raid sometimes indiscrimately and are seen as bullies and worse by many people in the region.  The RIAA doesn’t have blood on its hands but has squeezed a lot of blood money out of people, furthering the mistrust and anger that people have towards the industry.  Our State Dept and the RIAA might be a little wiser to put down the ammo and try to do some honest hearts-and-minds rebuilding.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/riaa_lawsuits_terrorism/