The RIAA gets taken down a notch

I'm not going to claim to be an expert in the area of parenting. I can't even really claim to know anything about children. But I do know what I'd do if I opened my mail and found out that the Recording Industry Association of America was suing me over my stepdaughter's downloaded music collection. I'd freak out (as would Mr. Tasha). Luckily for music lovers - and parents - everywhere, Debbie Foster, an Oklahoma mother, didn't freak out, and she didn't back down.

On Feb. 6, 2007, a U.S. District Court in Oklahoma ruled that Foster, who was sued for the alleged illegal downloading of her daughter Amanda, was entitled to an award of attorneys' fees. This was after the RIAA battled her for a year and a half and then backed out of the suit. Incidentally, the RIAA is appealing the decision and generally acting like a spoiled child who got caught beating up kids for their lunch money.

The debate on whether online file sharing is legal or not is still being fought. Opponents argue that the artists are losing money, and those that use file sharing networks are "stealing" music. Proponents of the technology say that artists only get a small percentage of album profits (this is true; the record company essentially owns any songs produced by a band) and that the majority of their revenue comes from merchandise and ticket sales, and that it increases the exposure of new and underground artists.

All I know is that the RIAA isn't earning any friends with their tactics. Their claims of lost profit are blatantly false; the music industry is healthier now than it has been in years. I come from a family of stagehands - my father, mother, husband, sister, brother-in-law and myself have all done stage work. I can tell you that the rate of concerts coming through the area has had a marked upswing in the past few years, be they independent label or mainstream artists. Despite all of the free music hubbub, there are still people wearing band T-shirts, sporting band bumper stickers and hoodies, and hanging band posters up on their bedroom walls.

In December of 2005, RIAA president Cary Sherman admitted that all he knew about the people the RIAA is suing (over 20,000 to date) is that they had Internet access accounts. What that means to me is that the RIAA is or could be suing anyone with Internet access because they may have illegally downloaded files, and are attempting to scare them into settling out of court.

In fact, according to the MIT campus newspaper "The Tech," the RIAA has suggested to students that they ought to drop out of college to be able to afford RIAA settlements. They've also sued people who don't own and never have owned a computer.

Anyone who had an enemy in school recognizes these tactics. They're bully tactics, designed to scare people into paying for something they might not be guilty of, or to scare them into admitting that they are guilty. The RIAA doesn't want to go to trial - they want you to settle out of court. It's dangerously close to extortion.

I highly doubt that file downloading hurts the actual artists as much as they claim. The majority of mainstream artists get the good money from outside revenue, rather than music sales. Most of the profit from music sales goes directly to the record companies.

And now we reach the crux of the matter. Those companies are part of a multi-billion-dollar-a-year business. They argue that people downloading music takes money away from the artists, but in reality, it takes money away from them, if anyone.

I don't like people that hide behind lies. If the RIAA is going to do this, and they will continue to, I only have one request: Be honest with us. If you want more money, come out and say it. Don't act like you're protecting the artists. If you really were, would a huge group of them have formed a coalition (that would be the Recording Artists Coalition) aimed specifically at bringing change to the recording industry's structure?

One solution to this problem would be to issue broad licenses for music produced by RIAA member companies to peer-to-peer networks like Limewire, and then charge people who use them flat (and affordable, like $5-$10) monthly rates and unlimited downloads. Have half that money go toward the better development of peer-to-peer software, and the other half go to the RIAA member companies, part of which will go solely to artists. Obviously there are always going to be people who want free music, but this will satisfy the majority of users.

Really. Let's act like adults here. And stop whining when you don't get your way. I've met kindergartners with more sense.

• I want to hear your opinions on file sharing. Shoot me a line at, or visit my blog at


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