The RIAA Unplugged

The RIAA has filed a brief in an Arizona U.S. District Court against two average citizens (Jeffrey and Pamela Howell) who committed the dastardly crime of ripping their CD collection to MP3s so they could enjoy them around the house and perhaps on their iPods. The RIAA is also alleging that the Howell's put their ripped music on file sharing networks -- perhaps a trusted trump card for them in their case.

RIAA is alleging violation of copyright laws and the fair use doctrine.

If you think it's a simple case of RIAA speaking out of both sides of its mouth -- you would be correct.

During the MGM v. Grokster lawsuit in 2005 the RIAA specifically allowed that making digital copies of music for personal use was okay -- protected under the convoluted way they look at the fair use laws.

How sad is the music media business today:

1. The record labels embarrass themselves by acting like ambulance chasers over issues that will never stop illegal downloading of music. They know this, but they are doing it anyway because they don't have the skills needed to compete in today's music media business. No digital strategy. No new music. No hope of selling more CDs to a digital generation. No understanding of the importance of social networks in spreading the word about music. No ability to do live music performance which is why Live Nation stole Madonna away from Warner. Live Nation has those core skills.

2. The labels are behind legislation to punish colleges and universities if they are not more aggressive about stopping illegal downloading. Their burn-in-hell strategy also includes the potential of depriving universities of federal aid if they are found to be in violation. You know what a university is, don't you -- a hot bed of music consumers. Nonetheless, let's hope Congress can stand up to this scorched earth policy. No one can prevent the next generation from stealing music least of all universities. And it doesn't look like RIAA's lawyers are doing such a hot job either as -- in spite of all their law suits against consumers -- illegal downloading keeps growing exponentially.

3. The labels are hell bent to get their former partners -- radio stations -- to pay performance taxes at a time when the radio industry hangs in peril while the music industry can't produce products or services that will sell. If the labels succeed on this one, the labels might win the battle but they will most definitely lose the war. Imagine fewer radio stations playing the fewer hits these labels are turning out by -- say, next year. Disaster.

4. Big four and RIAA lawyers are backed up against the wall in their royalty fight with Internet streamers. But they have a face-saving solution in front of them -- as pointed out by my friend Kurt Hanson. Extend the same deal they are offering to satellite radio to Internet streamers. Namely, 13% max with 6% and 8% discounts for the next few years to help the fledgling satellite radio business. Why not make a similar offer to the Internet business that is even less profitable than the unprofitable satellite radio industry.

When the RIAA was surrounded by other "musical instruments" so to speak like studies that show how much revenue they are losing to illegal file sharing, their argument made music to the courts.

But unplugged -- all alone strumming on their own, well -- weak argument about legally purchased CDs -- RIAA is revealed for what they really are.

A group representing companies that have no clue what happened to them and even less of a clue as to what to do.

I noted that the Howell suit was filed in Arizona. One of my homes is in Scottsdale. They know where to find me. I'm in the house using the CDs I purchased as I see fit.

Want to make a federal case out of it?

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