Alive with the sound of stolen music

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has been successful so far in its attempt to perform a number on many of its customers because the federal court system has upheld its “right” to do so.

Through the criminalization of file-sharing practices on the Internet, the RIAA hopes to clamp down on files on the Internet to rescue the ailing industry from a year of terrible CD sales. However, these measures won’t accomplish anything at all except RIAA’s own end.

The Internet exists in a vast expanse of space that takes up no volume in the real world. It is impossible to sift through all file-trading services that could possibly exist in cyberspace.

Furthermore, the public that uses these file-sharing services may have a higher overall level of computer expertise than the industry and law enforcement.

Then there is the issue of pricing. Recently, the media conglomerate Universal announced its decision to lower prices on its CDs – the industry buzz is that this will cause a fare war lowering all CD prices. I’ll believe it when I see it.

People aren’t as stupid as the RIAA would think if people buy writable CDs and burn songs onto them from the Internet, it saves them the trouble of having to go to the store and pay $20 for ONE CD of music.

Needless to say, “free” sounds better than $20, and technically-savvy students don’t operate on a budget that allows for frequent trips to Sam Goody.

Some say that file sharing is stealing from the artists who work hard to put out these CDs for their fans.

However, the overwhelming majority of bands and songwriters within the artists’ community support file sharing as a way to market their music to people while being able to skip the middle-man: their record companies.

Record companies control the prices of CDs, and thus profit the most from the price-fixing that occurs. The individual profit to artists can usually be measured in a few cents per CD.

In this way, the Internet actually allows artists to control the distribution of their music, as well as forgo the label PR game that many artists despise.

Another beneficial consequence for artists involves fans who use the Internet to learn about a band’s music, and then see them live in concert. Which, unless the band is a proven commodity and has ironclad commitments of artistic freedom and financial payment, is the only way that artists get rich off of their own music.

RIAA created its own negative press. Television pundits are overwhelmingly pro-industry to reflect the views of the networks’ parents companies, that also own the record labels.

However, newspapers and independent media have been exploring the other side of the story: people who have been caught in file-sharing dragnets.

Interestingly many of these happen to be middle school children who don’t know what they had for lunch, let alone the complexities of copyright law and its application on the Internet (the haziest territory of law enforcement, anyway).

And on a side note, file-sharing-as-stealing is such a broad concept that when your play a CD for your friend in your room, technically your friend is stealing music (peer-to-peer!). Go figure.

How this issue developes will be interesting to watch in the upcoming months – rumor states that it may get as far as the Supreme Court.

And if file-sharing is deemed unconstitutional muster, who knows what will happen then. I don’t personally share files anymore (if only I had a better computer.)

I remember that when I did, it opened me up to new and exciting forms of music that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

Coupled with the exorbitant price of CDs, it’s understandable why file sharing is the way to go in order for music to move into the future.

And since no one wants to buy CDs anymore, RIAA must either drop its objection to file-sharing altogether, or face obsoletion.