I usually try to refrain from any blog posts that delve into the legal or political scene. I have always felt that those types of conversations were more of a face-to-face nature rather than me just spewing opinions all over the internet, but this morning I read an article that just set me off and, well it’s my blog so I’m going to write about it.This morning I read this article. For those of you who don’t feel like reading it, I will summarize: It’s about this kid who spent all of his money to buy a vintage Mustang (I am warning you I know nothing about cars). He had a true love for the car despite its age (1978) and its condition. He also was a pretty avid Kazaa user, presumably so he can rock out to some hot jams when driving around. The article claims he had downloaded around 2,000 songs and eventually received a packet letting him know he was being sued by the RIAA for damages. The packet he received stated that he could settle out of court for $5000 or run the gambit of a trial in which he would be responsible for around $750 PER SONG DOWNLOADED (I stink at math but that is close to $1.5 million). Did I mention this kid was in high school.
He and his family had no choice. The kid worked a part time job for half, and sold his beloved Mustang for $2500 on Ebay (which was a huge mistake since the guy that bought it flipped it and resold it for $8000. In the end the kid paid the settlement and moved on. The RIAA wins again.
Now I’m not condoning stealing music in any way (out of a store or downloading). I am a professional musician and have been paid for my work. I would not be happy if people expected me to perform for free, or were able to get free copies of things I expect income from. I also think artists should be compensated for their time and their craft. While getting “free music” is cool, breaking the law is breaking the law. I do not condone what this kid did in anyway.
What I do have a problem with is the aftermath. So the kid got caught stealing music and pays a $5000 fine. Where does that money go? Does it go to the artist who was wronged? Not likely. Does it go to an organization who will distribute it to the record companies for compensation? Not likely. It most likely goes back to the RIAA so they can fund more lawyers for their everlasting crusade to punish people. Moreover, why would downloading songs result in over a million dollars in fines? Why do they have to be so high? People get arrested for stealing millions on Wall Street for insider trading and get less fines than a few songs. I also like how the RIAA tends to target younger people for these fines. I mean how would react as a high school sophomore getting a letter that states “Give me $5000 or you will end up in jail or worse.” Simply put it is extortion and fear mongering. For those of us who have run afoul of creditors, it is very similar to their tactics. I can still remember getting one phone call which was basically some person screaming at me over and over “Give me this amount of money or you will go to jail!” I guess if it worked for Al Capone it can work for the RIAA too.
I also disagree with the RIAAs stance on “we are protecting the artist.” As I said earlier every musician should get compensated for their work, but a standard contract for royalties earns the artist less than a dollar per song. Can someone explain to me how lets say 50 cents per song gets ballooned into $750. Are some of the more successful artists going to miss my 50 cents?
I think if the RIAA were serious about punishing downloaders why not make a punishment that actually can benefit someone other than themselves? How bout they fine people but they have to donate it to Save the Music? Why not community service where they advocate music performances in their town? How about we have a punishment actually do some good outside of making someone else richer? It deeply saddens me that money seems to be the only and sole motivator when it comes to file sharing incidents. Rather than really worry about the music being stolen everyone seems more focused on the “I’ll get mine.” Furthermore why are the record industries still fighting this? For every person they file suit against there are 200 more who are just going to keep sharing. Frankly after reading that article I was so angered I almost thought about delving back into music sharing just to spite the industry and the RIAA. Why not compromise? Itunes works, and so does Zune Pass. Why not just release all of the music digitally and have people pay a monthly fee? That way they make money and people can get the music they want. Worst case scenario we can finally end some of these frivolous lawsuits, and go back to listening to the music we feel so passionate about.