RIAA Backlash


Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) has launched an inquiry into the RIAA's "excessive" crackdown on file-traders. Coleman may not be an entirely disinterested party here: BoingBoing links to an interview in which the senator cops to having downloaded a few Bob Dylan MP3s in his day.

Meanwhile, there's a grassroots backlash underway as well. The newest version of Kazaa Lite includes an option to block RIAA IP addresses from seeing your shared list. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a page with tips on how not to get sued, including a search tool to see if your user info has been subpoenaed. And a site called RIAA Radar facilitates RIAA boycotts by allowing you to see whether that album you've been thinking about buying is put out by a RIAA affiliate. I guess I'll be holding off on picking up the most recent Phantom Planet album, but I'm gratified to see that the New Pornographers disc I just picked up is listed as "RIAA Safe."

NEXT: Maybeas Corpus

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Good to see counter punches being thrown.

  2. That RIAA Radar site is nice. Now I won't have to blanket boycott every CD, just those published by the RIAA.

  3. Agreed Madog - that top 100 shows that there's some pretty good stuff available.

  4. I live in a small college town. My local record store is closing. They stocked new & used vinyl, a massive variety of CD's, and could order anything. Business is 20% of what it was a few years ago.

    The owner said that college students, who made up the bulk of his customers, don't buy music anymore, they just "download" it. It's not downloading, its theft, plain and simple, and according to the record store owner, its killing independent record stores.

    And just so you know, Justin, the record store owner was the drummer for Neko Case on her last tour--he's been in the music business a while. He'll be touring a lot more now.

    I don't like the RIAA methods either, but I don't like the outright theft of music that is occurring. Somethings gotta give, I don't know what the solution is, but downloading Bob Dylan songs instead of buying the CD or album should be illegal.

  5. I say we give the chap a pat on the back and tell him good luck in the future. Sorry, but you are supplying something that is not in demand anymore. Brand spanking new professionally pressed compact discs of complete albums with colorful artwork and covers are not in demand the way they used to be. If the studios had provided internet sales like they should have the guy would've been out of a business anyway.

  6. So Citizen, you're saying that since record companies haven't provided their product in your format of choice, it's OK for you to just take it without paying them?

  7. no...the point is that the record industry HAS to evolve to meet changing demand...thats the basic idea behind capitalism, its what drives progress and innovation. do you think horse and buggy makers were happy when the first ford rolled off the assembly line?? of course not, and just because that industry was hurt is no justification to try and stop the auto industry. some may say that the issue is the fact that the music is being stolen though, but thats a BIG grey area...after all, the people who originally post a song most likely purchased the album, making it HIS/HER personal property..they are not selling it for a profit, but merely sharing it.

    as an aside, it seems some labels are trying to do something about this. When the new White Stripes album came out i tried to download it, but the only downloads i was able to get were the first 30 seconds of each song looped over and over again...a great teaser for a great album... i ended up going to the record store to get the whole thing. someone was forced to get smart and they did.

  8. Of course the technology is changing. Many people who were employed pressing vinyl records, driving forklifts in the record factory warehouses, etc. got a "pat on the back" and a "good luck" message in the late 1980's. But it wasn't because someone came and stole the product and offered it free to anyone with a phone line.

  9. Doesn't democracy stand above capitalism? Which means that if the people wants to be able to download music for free, they should be allowed to, no matter what the consequenses are for the artists and record companies. I'm not sure what the public opinion in The US is right now, but in Europe the European Union are pushing for more laws preventing what's known as 'piracy', at the same time as the public opinion in the most computer developed countries supports the freedom to download music for free - no matter what the record companies and artists thinks.

    Of course we can't put Bob Dylan in a cage and force him to produce music for free that we can download - but we can give him, and the music industry the option to choose wheter or not to accept this conditions. If they don't, they're free to start with something else than producing music.

  10. I subscribe to emusic.com to get most of my music these days ($9.99/mo for all the indie music i want). There are plenty of other legit places to d/l music, also.

    I would say that it is true that your town's little record stores were heading for hard times either way. Record stores will probably be replaced by burning stations that give give you high quality recordings of your choice on cd.

  11. I haven't bought CDs from a small store in like 10 years. First Best Buy then the internet, who'd want to pay $18 for a CD from a small store?

    I'm not sure if I'll use the new pay to download services. I've gotten used to listening to the songs on the CD a few times before buying them, they'd have to give some good quality samples.

  12. Craig,

    An interesting note about the new white stripes album. When advance copies were sent out to reviewers, they were sent vinyl only, no digital. The few reviewers who coplained were basically laughed at. While they obviously didn't do this for album release as well, the advance copies are often the source of a bulk of downloadable versions. This is because given the hundreds or thousands sent out, it is virtually impossible not to have some of the reviewers start sharing it. These copies are the first out and therefore start multiplying sooner, and to the most hit sources, than the copy that little Johnny makes available from the CD he bought weeks or months later. I assume the loop you heard was put out early in place of the reviwer leaks. This was a clever ploy.

  13. Thanks Phil for making me feel good about myself in that I predicted that someone would respond with an asinine comment like that.

    Brady nailed it. Pop's shop was gonna be done because people are over paying 16.99 for a new release ... or for their favorite old stuff on a new format (how many times do I have to buy the same Beatles album?). There are now more options. yes one of those is possibly illegal, but not all of them. I don't d/l music from Kazaa or anything like that. I buy all of my music at concert or off the internet. Why spend close to $20 when I can use bmg, columbia house, etc. with an average price of near $3. That comes from the power of mass production and loooooooow overhead.

    It's not a charity and Pop's shop gets no nostolgia points. Move or be moved.

  14. "downloading Bob Dylan songs instead of buying the CD or album should be illegal."

    It is.

    "Doesn't democracy stand above capitalism? Which means that if the people wants to be able to download music for free, they should be allowed to, no matter what the consequenses are for the artists and record companies."

    You know, this has been tried. Its called communism. Google it, and get back to us on how well it worked last time.

  15. Somewhere I read that Kidd Rock starved to death, apparently because he couldn't make any money because of file sharing. They even had a picture of him... and he looked scary thin!

    Bob O

  16. Actually R.C., are you certain that Itunes or buymusic.com doesn't have Dylan available? Then you could download his individual songs for a price and it's all perfectly legal. That's an important point in this discussion, especially with regard to the demise of brick and mortar music stores. Not all music downloading is illegal. Even if the illegal file-sharing/downloading were to stop altogether tomorrow, the brick and mortar music stores may not have such a bright future.

  17. trainwreck:

    No, it's not theft plain and simple, unless somebody lifts a trunkload of actual CD's. What those people are doing is exchanging information. A copyright protects a person's "property" in the right to arrange a series of musical notes in a certain order, by preventing anyone else from arranging notes in the same order, on his own property, with his own instruments and recording equipment.

    There's room for intelligently disagreeing on the "property" status of copyrights, but you should at least be aware that a major segment of libertarians view them as a government-granted monopoly.

    Traditionally, copyrights and patents weren't viewed as property by nature. Rather, the state conferred quasi-property status, as a matter of prudence, on something that was not property in its own right.

  18. Like dudes, music isn't about money and riches and mansions. Money is just for the suits man. Its wrong to make money, cuz like when you make money you take it away from someone else. Music is about free expression and love of arts and life and groovy stuff man.

  19. Citizen likes to be a hard nosed realist. So tough. Look, the record store owner knows his enterprise is doomed by new technology. That's not the point, although I will feel nostalgic any time I damn well please.

    The whole freakin point of my post is that many people, especially young people, do get their music from Kazaa and never pay a dime for it. It's illegal, and the RIAA is the only group that seems to be doing anything about it.

    Julian's post confuses two subjects: one is the RIAA itself, loathed by many for it's member's busisness practices. The other is the attempt to stop people from making music available for free, which is being spearheaded by the RIAA.

    Look, the bottom line is the music and the artists. No matter what the label, if the music is good, buy it and you will support the artists! To hell with some stupid boycott based on someone's PC notions....

  20. Kevin: I'd like to exchange your information about Jimi Hendrix's "Machine Gun" for my information concerning Eminem's "Without Me." Then I'll take my information, convert it to .wav format, burn it to CD, and play it in the car or at home. Or maybe I'll just hook my computer up to my stereo and examine that information in mp3 format. It's just exchanging information after all.

  21. Phantom planet blows and if not for Neko Case, so would the New Pornographers

  22. True music fans don't listen to MP3s, they sound like shit... even at 320 kps. If the music industry wants to survive, they should figure out a way to make CDs sound even better (I personally think that CDs lose a lot of texture that can be found in vinyl. Let's not continue that old debate though) So many people are getting 5.1 stereo systems now, if the record industry made CDs for 5.1, people would abandon mp3s in favor of the better recording (just like the introduction of stereo made mono recordings nearly extinct.

  23. trainwreck:

    That's right--download it on YOUR computer, burn it on YOUR blank disc with YOUR CD burner, and play it in YOUR car stereo. The only thing the record company claims "property" in is a particular arrangement of ones and zeros. So they're claiming a monopoly on the ability to arrange ones and zeros in a particular pattern and charge money for it. Maybe the recent "Foxtrot" cartoon had the right idea: copyright two digital songs, titled "Zero" and "One," and sue the music industry for trillions.

  24. R.C. Dean:

    "You know, this has been tried. Its called communism. Google it, and get back to us on how well it worked last time."

    I don't know if you're one of those people west of the Atlantic Ocean that believes public health care etc. is communism, if so, I can understand that you think democracy is communism. However, if you don't, I really don't get WHY the people can't decide what the intellectual property laws should be like, as well as the other laws.

    If you believe in a society were CEOs dictates the laws and not the people, a society were suspected shoplifters are persecuted by private courts, you might have something to learn by Googleing the word facism.

  25. God, the anti-copyright diatribes are getting old.

  26. RC Dean, you got that right! As long as it's for personal use, it is fine to copy CDs... or to trade files. It's called "fair use."

    Of course, if someone profits from the transaction, it's a whole 'nother story.

  27. "What those people are doing is exchanging information. A copyright protects a person's "property" in the right to arrange a series of musical notes in a certain order, by preventing anyone else from arranging notes in the same order, on his own property, with his own instruments and recording equipment."

    This misunderstanding of copyright is so total that I hardly know where to begin. The only glimmer of true understanding would be if you realize that "arranging notes in the same order" need not be done on your own property with instruments and recording equipment to violate copyright, but can also be done by MAKING A COPY OF THE FREAKING CD for any purpose other than your personal use. The copyright essentially gives you a license to use the copyrighted material for personal use and for "fair use" (in reviews and so forth) but not to distribute copies to the entire planet. How hard is that to understand?

    Carl - the Communism remark was prompted by a statement above to the effect that "the people" should be able to take whatever property they want just because they want it, and damn the consequences to the owners of that property. Sounded like Communism to me. I think we that the parameters of copyright are subject to legal alteration, of course, but if you want to simply eliminate copyright altogether you can probably expect big chunks of the knowledge industry to suffer the same economic fate as, well, Communist economies everywhere.

  28. RC Dean, you got that right! As long as it's for personal use, it is fine to copy CDs... or to trade files. It's called "fair use."

    Sigh. Another person who doesn't understand fair use.

    Fair use doesn't give you the right to trade files. The fact that you don't profit from it has nothing to with it. I suggest you take a quick gander at copyright law before putting your foot in your mouth like this.

  29. Thanks Deacon for clearing that up. It seemed pretty simple to me.

  30. "after all, the people who originally post a song most likely purchased the album, making it HIS/HER personal property..they are not selling it for a profit, but merely sharing it.

    If "Bob" purchases a brand new, hot off the presses "Elvis Anthology" CD, he "owns" the piece of plastic that is the CD... not the content of it. If Bob wants to "share" the song, he can let his friends borrow the CD. Bob does not have the legal right to distribute its contents as he sees fit... regardless of profit or lack there-of.

    "Of course, if someone profits from the transaction, it's a whole 'nother story."

    Hmmm... Let's say I write a song and decide to charge $2 for each copy someone has (CD, mp3, wav, whatever). If you don't pay $2 for a copy of my song that you receive you have "profited" $2 by having my song and not paying for it.

    Let's look at it another way. If GM makes a car and wants to charge folks $20K for each copy. If you have one of those cars and didn't pay the $20K for it, it's theft, plain and simple. (and please don't post about winning the car, your parents buying it for you, etc... you get my point).




  33. The RIAA is looking for a scapegoat here. Most of the people I know that were downloading were getting older songs. Not the new releases. If they had some bands that had more talent and ability to put more than two songs on a cd maybe people wouldn't chafe at laying down $20.00 for a piece of plastic that everyone now knows costs only pennies to burn. Case in point. Anybody watch Justin Timberlake on Punk'd. One of the many corporate flunkies that have flooded the airwaves with his uninspired teeny-bopper fodder. Did you catch the part where they named off a few of his assets? He's making that much money off "Bye,Bye,Bye"? While true artists can barely eek out sponsorship? And the downloaders are the one's killing the recording industry? WTF! I've bought maybe 5 cd's in the last year. Not because I can download them but because it was quality music and I wanted the entire cd and cd quality. Oh and by the way if the format does change from cd everyone once again gets to line the RIAA's pockets for their favorite songs in a new format. On fark.com today they had a story about a minor that lives in a housing project that the RIAA settled out of court for $2000. Look me in the eye and tell me that a kid that lives in a inner city slum of a housing project that is getting sued for a few grand that they don't have is getting just what they deserve. If they really wanted to stop it they'd sue the software manufacturers. It's just easier to go after the end user. More money that way.

  34. It's about control and money! People are still spending just as much maybe more to listen to music! How do I arrive at this conclusion you ask? Well how much does a radio cost? Compare that to a computer, blank CDs, internet access, MP3 players, and ect. The trouble comes when you follow the money trail and it doesn't lead back to the RIAA. In mafia style tactics they will beat the offenders into submission in the courts. Would I be sued if I recorded broadcasts off the radio and sent anyone who called me and asked for a cassete a copy I think not! but the principal is the same....

  35. I agree with Citizen on his viewpoints. Additionally, the record industry claims to be bleeding money, however, we know that money IS still being made in droves and lifestyles are as opulent as ever for top recording stars. AOL/TimeWarner, who owns record labels, also collects monthly subsription fees from its internet customers (some of which are the same individuals downloading this music), so in the end, the comsumer DOES end up paying somehow or another....few things are truly free in this world. On a side note, we should remind ourselves of greed and the large role it plays in the careers of individuals. Do people go to medical school to heal or to make money? Do singers love to sing, or just make money? There is nothing wrong with making a living, that's for sure, hoewver when obscene greed surpasses the necessities of life, then I root for the underdog.

  36. If you take something that is produced for profit without paying for it you are stealing. Who are you all to decide when someone is too rich? As long as someone produces or does something that someone else is willing to pay for, then they have a right to be paid. How about you work for free?

    If you think they are too rich, or not worth what they are doing or offering, don't buy it. If you choose to steal it, at least have the balls to admit you are stealing. You gutless sucks can call it "sharing", but a fart by any other name still stinks.

    That being said; I do take extreme issue with CD's being copy protected. Even software publishers recommend making backup copies, or at least used to. In some ways the actions of RIAA are like those of the Gun Control crowd. I cannot have "that gun" because there is "no legitimate reason". I cannot copy my CD's because that violates the copyright?


    Maybe I want to mix and match my own CD, maybe I want a thrasher copy in my pickup or car. There are plenty of legit reasons for copying a CD and to put copy protection on them is to degrade the value of my purchase.

    Just for the record, if you want to know who is behind all of this fuss it is the trial lawyers that are going to get fat.

  37. Don't boycott artists for the RIAA's mistake. Artists need money to make good music! They make trifling amounts as it is. If you want to punish the RIAA, firebomb the headquarters or something.

  38. ARTISTS ONLY MAKE A TRIFLING????? Are you from Mars????

    I don't hear of people going to Malibu and Beverly Hills hoping to see a record producer!! They go to see stars....singers among them.

  39. EMAIL: sespam@torba.com
    URL: http://preteen-models.biz
    DATE: 01/22/2004 12:09:31
    There is no benefit in the gifts of a bad man.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.