I'm not one to defend the RIAA; I despise it and everything it stands for. But, I believe it should be made clear just what exactly it stands for. Also, in the interest of balance, I will provide a few arguments why the RIAA is not the spawn of Satan.

1: Protecting, If Not Representing, Artists
The RIAA is trying to protect the arts in America. I know that to many this might seem contradictory at first. After all, haven’t peer-to-peer “sharing”* networks enabled a great variety of music to be spread to people who are increasingly unable to hear it? The answer is no. In order for music to truly flourish, the music industry must be well financed. Money is at the root of any industry surviving, and music is no exception. The money is not just being taken away from artists, but also the people behind the scenes who work to produce and transport the records. The organization is trying to protect artists by protecting their work from people who wish to steal it and sell it on the street corner or make illegal copies for whatever reason. Artists are more likely to create works of greater quanitity and quality if they are assured that it will be secured from copyright infringement.

2: The Price Isn't Right
Regarding price: This is a valid argument. There is no denying that the RIAA is guilty of serious price gouging, and several courts have established opinions saying such. However, users stealing music are guilty of possibly forcing the RIAA to jack-up the prices of CD’s in order to entrench copy control devices in the discs. This is not to mention the amount they have had to spent on lawsuits and operations designed to force illegal operations to shut down. If all the people who focus their time and energy on operating, maintaining, and using services like Kazaa would instead spend it on organizing action to stop price gouging, a lot more would be accomplished.

3: Litigation Without Representation
As Lawrence Lessig of Stanford Law School said, “The RIAA is the Recording Industry Association of America. It is not the Recording Industry and Artists Association of America.” The RIAA has said that they are fighting for the rights of artists, and this is dubious at best. They are fighting servers like Morpheus in order to regain lost revenues. However, as I pointed out in my first argument, securing copyrighted material in the marketplace helps ensure artists that their work is safe, which will help more voices be heard.

My inspiration and main source of information for this article was a forum on the PBS website: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/forum/june03/copyright.html

*I use the word sharing in quotation marks because as an RIAA representative points out in the interview above, the peer-to-peer networks do not consist of sharing music. Sharing is the temporary lending of something for a limited period with the intended promise of the user giving it back to the owner. In fact, music is not being shared, it is being widely distributed and held by individuals who do not intend to give it back. It’s a sound point, even if you only agree with it in semantics.

How can downloading music be a crime? For a crime to have occurred, there must be a victim. Unless RIAA can prove that I would have bought the CD (I would not have!), then there are no damages from the action. No victim. No crime.

I can hear the voices crying, "Copyright!" but somewhere along the way we lost sight of what copyrights and patents were intended for, and how publishing is supposed to work, and work for the people. Let me explain.

The internet is the next evolution of the library. If you doubt this, visit your local college, possibly the birthplace of the library, and see how much of that college's library is on its network and/or available online. I can borrow a book from a library, copy down every title and jot, and keep that copy forever. In fact, that was exactly what was done until the printing press was invented. Then it became unfashionable. This is the very basis of the word publish, which means to make public. In fact I should be able to sell copies too, as long as I attribute the author. After all, he made his work public. It was my effort to copy all that information down. Now, the task of copying that information has become simpler. That is not my fault or concern as far as this topic goes. I paid for the equipment used to make such copies.

I really have a problem with paying someone for their thoughts. I have no problem paying someone for their effort. But it is a one-time payment. Just as I don't pay for my toaster every time I roast toast, I'm not going to pay a musician for every time I listen to sound produced from my own equipment using a formula that musician belched out 30 years ago which I happen to have a copy of. I pay musicians for singing or playing. Live. If you are a musician and you are getting paid for anything but live music or the physical medium your music is recorded on, you are wrong. If you don't think so, you need to re-read the previous paragraph, and talk to God some more. And if you are a gospel musician and you are doing anything more than recouping the losses for the cost of publishing, don't bother, because the god you serve is Mammon. You're in dire jeopardy of going to Hell. Do not pass GO. Do not collect your eternal reward. Sorry to be so blunt, but you should have figured that one out.

Since we are on the subject, lets talk about the number one best seller of all time. The Bible. Now, its all there. Anyone can copy it. It's encouraged, just don't leave anything out or add anything to it. Yet it sells and sells and sells. Which is worth more, the copy at the book store, or the one hand copied by Great-grandpa Jones? But I digress. CD's aren't going away. Paper books aren't going away. People are still going to want the brand name. Just as people go buy Levi's pants, when they could buy the machinery and disect a thrown out pair of the neighbor's pants and make their own, and have them fit better. Now, the labor/money cost of copying your neighbor's Metallica CD is much less, and you do lose the fancy label. But the concept is the same.

Imagine for a moment that leavened bread had never been invented. Then some schmoe tosses a handful of bacteria in with his flour and, Ureka! Now the shmoe wants to make money for the rest of his life off of the one-time accident. So he patents the idea. Now you, who's father and father's father shed their blood to put the patent system in place, can never eat Subway sandwiches, or even PB&J for that matter. Even though you and your family have a stake (in blood!) in the very mechanism which was supposed to protect him from the sharks of the business world for a very, very short time while he got himself set up with a business and a name and could hold his own. Your investment return on that blood your family shed was supposed to be that the patent is released into public domain and free for all to use after that very short time. So if you then wanted to set up a bread shop next door to the schmoe and run him out of business by beating him at bread baking, you could. You could use his patent to get started, because that right was paid for by your father and grandfather before you were old enough to count to ten.

Where did we go wrong? What caused this screwed up situation where no copyrighted material has become public domain since early in the last century, and corporations can own a patent in any way whatsoever? A patent should never belong to anything but an individual only, and not be transferable, except that it may then be leased, and then it should last for no more than a decade. If it wasn't innovative enough that everyone wants it right now, it wasn't innovative enough to put on record. Published works should become public domain after a decade. If you didn't make your money off the sales of your book by then, it wasn't that good a book anyway, and you probably didn't deserve money for it. So, what jackass politician missed his saving throw? Who caved in to the call of that demon, Greed?

I know I touched many topics, and if this gets read by more than three people, a lot of nerves. But I have one more thing to say before I close, about the music industry. And I am going to start with a short story, poorly told;)

Once upon a time there was a country of people who allowed themselves to be called Swiss. They made watches. In fact, they made the best watches in the whole world. Everybody thought so. Because they made the best watches, they set the prices on their watches very high, and people paid it, and were happy, because they had a great watch that was very accurate. Then they invented a new kind of watch. It was made with a piece of crystal that vibrated very precisely when an electrical current was applied to it. But they were very happy, thank you, making watches the way they always had. After all, they were famous for their watches and everyone knew their watches were the best. So they sold the crystal watch idea to another group of people. A very industrious people called the Japanese. The Japanese people worked very hard and produced a watch much, much more acurate than the swiss watches, but the swiss just laughed and pointed, because those crystal-timed watches weren't Swiss, and they would never be what the Swiss watch was.

Now look at the quartz watch on your hand. The Swiss could still be the kings of the clock. Instead of Greenwich Mean Time, it could be Swiss Alps Time. The paradigm changed and they failed to adapt, and their time(no pun intended) as the clockmakers has passed.

The music industry has just passed such a crossroad, a year or two ago. They chose poorly. They failed to adapt. Their time, too, is passing. Musicians will make their name by publishing their music online and make their bills by doing live concerts, not making much money but loving what they are doing. Most of them are doing that now. At least, the ones worth listening to. Years from now, your children's children will look at you cross-eyed and say, "You mean you paid to listen to a recording? You mean it wasn't free on the internet!?!?" And hopefully, they will be listening to the latest song they downloaded from that new group on the lunar colony. And it will sound as awful to you as your music does to your grandparents.

The RIAA is a trade group of musicians and record labels. They seek to '...represent the US Recording Industry.' Viewed as a corporation, the RIAA is without a doubt a monopoly. They themselves state that 'RIAA members create, manufacture and/or distribute approximately 90% of all legitimate sound recordings produced and sold in the United States.'

The RIAA nominally has an altruistic mission, to protect its members. Semantically, though, it's actions are self-perpetrating. By insuring the success of it's patrons, it insures it's own success. They work to protect copyrighted material and 'intellectual property' around the world, despite the fact that they are 'of America'. They certify record sales status: gold, platinum, multi-platinum, and diamond.

In an attempt to appeal to people outside the US, they have recently started Los Premios De Oro y Platino. An award for Latin music.

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