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The Electronic Frontier Foundation tears into the Recording Industry Association of America's controversial lawsuit campaign as it looks back over the past four years

Against a climate of litigation and DRM, the Electronic Frontier Foundation released “RIAA v. The People: Four Years Later,” a report (PDF) examining the entertainment’s anti-piracy efforts four years after the first P2P lawsuits targeting users.

The 25-page report -- which includes nine pages of citations -- covers broad territory, chronicling the record industry’s various legal campaigns and why each one has failed. Starting with the RIAA’s early attempts to “sue the technology,” the EFF argues that each successive attempt to curb piracy with litigation has no effect at best and, at worse, drives piracy even further underground: “In response to the RIAA lawsuits, many filesharers are beginning to opt for new file sharing technologies that protect their anonymity,” the EFF writes, “[and] infiltrating these private P2P circles is much more difficult than simply trolling public P2P networks.”

Legitimate downloading services do not escape the EFF’s analysis, either. Referring the DRM-encumbered downloads from stores like iTunes, the EFF writes: 

“While these restrictions, when considered in a vacuum, may strike some as reasonable, they make for a less-than-attractive carrot when dangled in front of music fans used to the unencumbered MP3 files they find on P2P networks. At the same time, the DRM technologies have not succeeded in keeping any “protected” songs off the Internet. In fact, the existence of these restrictions gives otherwise law-abiding customers a reason to seek out P2P channels when their legitimate expectations are frustrated (after all, these are the customers who paid for the music they could have obtained for free!).”

Interestingly, the EFF seems to feel that illegal file sharing and P2P piracy may actually be in a state of regression: with the dropping costs of high-capacity storage media, friends and social circles have returned to swapping CDs instead of downloads; with the cost of optical media dropping, this is easier than ever. Moreso, users are not just swapping CDs, but may also be trading hard drives filled with music, allowing pirates to trade files at a rate faster than P2P networks. 

The report ends with remarkable proposal: rather than continuing lawsuits against its own customers, the EFF proposes a “voluntary collective licensing scheme” not unlike the royalties systems used for performance venues, radiostations, and restaurants. Essentially, P2P filetrading would be legal if the trader paid a monthly fee:

“The music industry forms one or more collecting societies, which then offers file sharing music fans the opportunity to “get legit” in exchange for a reasonable regular payment, say $5 per month. So long as they pay, the fans are free to keep doing what they are going to do anyway -- share the music they love using whatever software they like on whatever computer platform they prefer -- without fear of lawsuits. The money collected gets divided among rightsholders based on the popularity of their music. In exchange, file sharing music fans who pay (or have their ISP or software provider or other intermediary pay on their behalf) will be free to download whatever they like, using whatever software works best for them. The more people share, the more money goes to rights-holders. The more competition in P2P software, the more rapid the innovation and improvement. The more freedom for fans to upload what they care about, the deeper the catalog.”  

The concept is not new, however, as companies like Napster have already done it for a few years now with its “unlimited access” rental program, where consumers have free access to a large library provided they keep paying the monthly fee. The key difference between the EFF’s scheme and rental services, however, is that users, not rightsholders, retain control over the files downloaded, the software used for playback, and the means of acquisition; a stark contrast to the “walled gardens” that permeate the digital music market of today.

According to Ars Technica, the idea has already been passed around by EFF attorney Fred von Lohmann at a Beverly Hills DRM conference last spring. The labels refused, citing that consumers would “pay exactly once,” download everything they wanted, then immediately cease all future payments.

"This is about money, not morality," says von Lohmann. "With a blanket licensing solution, the RIAA can call off the lawyers and the lobbyists, and universities can get back to education instead of copyright enforcement."

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RE: RIAA and p2pers
By derwin on 8/31/2007 2:33:16 AM , Rating: 4
"musicans dont make money from CDs."

BS. Musicans pay back the studio, marketing, and legal fees associated with recording a big name CD using CD sales. The rest (concerts, endorsments, etc) are where they make a profit, but they still make money off CDs.
Heres the problem. Why does a good band need to pay a studio or marketing firm? Shouldn't mastering a CD be considered part of the artistic process? Shouldn't the producer be really part of the band, and only split his fair shair of their CD income? Why a flat fee? Unless he is like a factory worker churning out things without regard to its musical content, he ought to be paid not on a fee bassis, but how all the other musicians are paid - by their fair shair of the revenue. Secondly, why the h-ll do you need to promote a good CD? If its good, it sells itself. Kurt Cobain needed no marketing firm to make nirvana famous. Michael Jackson (who sucks, but for the sake of argument) needed no marketing company to make it as a big artist. The reason the record industry sucks is because they are no longer about the music. As long as the dollar comes before the quarter note, we as purchasers of their product have a responsibility to NOT buy the s--t pushed on us. DL it if its catchy. DL it if its a nice party tune. But for god's sake, er.. for music's sake, DONT PAY FOR CRAP, or you will get more crap.

I will continue to dl ALL of my music until this monster of art entierly for profit and not for any art at all continues to exist.

Art is expression. Art is a glimps into the soul of another human being. Art is beautiful. The Music industry (INDUSTRY!!! WE CALL IT AN INDUSTRY!!!) is none of the above.

F--- em. I miss the days when music was music first, and SINCE its good, they get paid.

Don't take me wrong, I think real musicans deserve to be paid. There are plenty of real musicans out there, but right now, they work for the RIAA, not the other way around. I am doing this as much if not more for them than I am for myself.

RE: RIAA and p2pers
By rdeegvainl on 8/31/2007 5:15:49 AM , Rating: 3
Sure you, just like people eat cows so there is more space to grow crops.
I disagree with your post, Michael Jackson was promoted (jackson 5) Nirvana was promoted(mothers screaming that it was evil) The reason a good band needs a studio and marketing firm in the first place, is because, even though they may have a great band and music and album, no one knows of them, they won't get airtime, how the hell are they gonna get on a radio station for petes sake, except for maybe one song at a late hour on a special segment for underheard music, that someone will say hey that is pretty good, i hope they make it big and then i'll even consider getting there music. If they don't have a producer and marketing behind them, they are dead in the water. Art for money i think is the best possible situation too. If an artist can't focus on his/her art, then that art will not be as good as it could be, sure there are the few exceptions, but I would rather people be able to make a living for providing us all the entertainment that they do.

RE: RIAA and p2pers
By derwin on 8/31/2007 3:04:06 PM , Rating: 3
The problem is systemic - i.e. the reason good bands can't get air play without a marketing and promotional campaign is because all the other crappy bands filling up the radio do have those things. The music industry needs to stop controlling what is on the air, and let the radio stations and thus their listeners decide.
Art for money is great. Art for the sake of money is horrible. What I think you ment to say is money for art. Money for art is great. Art for money is not.

RE: RIAA and p2pers
By AToZKillin on 9/4/2007 4:11:50 PM , Rating: 2
Shouldn't mastering a CD be considered part of the artistic process? Shouldn't the producer be really part of the band, and only split his fair shair of their CD income? Why a flat fee?

Tracking (recording), mixing, and mastering are all considered part of the artistic process. Producers are responsible for overseeing the artistic process, and are compensated as such.

Typically, they get an producer's advance (taken out of the artist's in that sense they are a 'part of the band'), as well as a percentage (usually <5%), paid from record one. Meaning, they don't have to recoup the advance...they get paid right off the bat, unlike the artist.

Musicans pay back the studio, marketing, and legal fees associated with recording a big name CD using CD sales.

Typically, artists are given a recording advance (which is what you are probably referring to when you say "pay back the studio"), and sometimes a personal advance (for living costs). They shouldn't be paying for marketing and promotion, and the only legal fees they should be responsible for would be the percentage that their attorney gets for getting them signed (or whatever was agreed upon).

Music for profit has existed since...forever ago. Many classical composers wrote for money, as well as performers. I don't think it's in any way contemptible for a musician to demand compensation for their time and effort, as long as the product is good. On a side note, Michael Jackson is a pretty sweet performer, his personal issues aside.

In regards to this big topic in general, this is a system I've been a proponent of for a long time, before it ever was mainstream. For derwin's purposes, it's good for one thing: music that's good will be downloaded and heard, and those artists will be paid! So, if some diva or boy-band tries to pump out a garbage album/single, and only a few download it before the rest of the populace hears that it sucks...guess what? No $ for them!

"It seems as though my state-funded math degree has failed me. Let the lashings commence." -- DailyTech Editor-in-Chief Kristopher Kubicki

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