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The RIAA's recent case and a pending case in the UK provide some insight into whom it might prosecute next

The Recording Industry Association of America is the oft villainized copyright-infringement watchdog for the music industry in the U.S.  Its letters to music sharers have led to thousands of settlement over the last few years.  Now, following its recent success in the jury civil trial Capitol Records, et al v. Jammie Thomas, which resulted in a jury verdict of $222,000 in damages, many wonder who the RIAA might target next.

The RIAA might have given a clue during testimony by music industry lawyers in the Thomas case.  During the case Jennifer Pariser, the head of litigation for Sony BMG, was called to testify.  Pariser noted that music labels make no money on bands touring, radio, or merchandise, so they are particularly vulnerable to file sharing.  She went on to say that when people steal music the label is harmed.

Pariser believes in a very broad definition of stealing that is echoed by many supporters in the RIAA.  She believes that users who buy songs are entitled to one, and only one copy.  Burning CDs is just another name for stealing, in her mind. "When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." Making "a copy" of a purchased song is just "a nice way of saying 'steals just one copy'."

Such logic has been a driving force behind efforts to "rights manage" music including the current DRM found on Apple's iTunes files and Microsoft's DRM, which is also widespread.

While it seems unlikely that the RIAA would be able to effectively identify "burners", such litigation remains a legal possibility for the RIAA and major music labels, in the minds of their lawyers.

Another possible avenue of legal action for the RIAA is the pursuit of businesses that play unauthorized music in stores.  The Performing Rights Society (PRS), Britain's version of the RIAA, may give the RIAA some possible ideas with its pending litigation.  The PRS is suing the Kwik Fit Group, a car repair shop in Edinburgh, for £200,000 in damages.  The case revolves around the complaint that Kwik Fit employees brought in personal radios which they played while working on cars, which could be heard by colleagues and customers.  The PRS says this amounts to a public "performance" and should have entailed royalties.

The possible implications if this litigation succeeds are numerous.  The RIAA could pursue retailers like Borders Books who play music in their restrooms or on their store floors.  They could also seek action against small businesses that have radios in their stores.

These possible future targets may seem outlandish or farfetched, but the RIAA and its foreign equivalents have some heavy legal firepower.  It hires many of the country's top lawyers and have gained millions in settlements and recently have added the $222,000 Thomas verdict to its coffers.

Some fear the RIAA is overstepping its bounds, including in the Thomas case.  Rep. Rick Boucher, a Virginia Democrat, and strong advocate of fair use, recently went on record stating that the trial verdict was excessive and "way out of line" with other cases of this nature.

The Bush Administration feels that the case was very fair and was a positive example of our nation's laws at work.

"Cases such as this remind us strong enforcement is a significant part of the effort to eliminate piracy, and that we have an effective legal system in the U.S. that enables rights holders to protect their intellectual property."

With the RIAA's powerful legal, financial, and political backers nobody can truly say what it impossible for it to accomplish.  Now as it is in the midst of delivering its eighth wave of infringement letters to colleges, it may soon be turning its attention to CD burners or businesses that play music in front of customers.

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RE: Nine inch nails, Radiohead.. ect.
By fic2 on 10/9/2007 12:32:37 PM , Rating: 3
I saw a program about copyright/etc on CNBC a few months ago. One of the bands they talked to was Bare Naked Ladies. They had broken from their label. They said that they sell a lot fewer albums, but make a lot more money. I think they now make $6/CD vs $0.50 before. They had just done a fan cruise where they sold out the ship and (I guess) played every night. How cool would that be?

With the internet it shouldn't be hard to break from a record label as long as you have a fan base.

RE: Nine inch nails, Radiohead.. ect.
By TomZ on 10/9/2007 12:38:33 PM , Rating: 2
I agree, and that points to the financial investment required to build up a fan base. In a way it is "easy" for a band like BNL or Radiohead to break free from big record labels, since they already have millions of fans around the globe. The question is, for new bands, can they personally afford or find investors that will help them get to that point? That is one of the things that a record company does now with the "current" system.

RE: Nine inch nails, Radiohead.. ect.
By MobiWan on 10/9/2007 1:11:25 PM , Rating: 4
Right, except that for every NIN, BNL and RadioHead there are a 1000 other bands/artists trying to make it that essentially sell away all their rights to the record labels only to have the labels sit on their album, mismanage their promotion, etc...
Fact is the labels used to actually DEVELOP artists, and this takes time. The suits that run the labels now just view the artists as factories and it's all about flavor of the minute, mold them, sell them, dump them.

The system is increasingly not only anti-consumer, but has been anti-artist (which gets nowhere near as much press).

A boycott of any RIAA affiliated labels and a show of support to non RIAA/truely independent releases would be a move in the right direction. It would hurt the labels, and by supporting the alternatives, would show the artists screwed by the labels that there is another way and it's not just because of the tired 'people are just file sharing' or 'no good music is being made' excuses from either camp.

And it is possible for young bands to do it (in fact they may be ultimately better equipped just because they have grown up with the current technology), they just need to do the research and yes, in some ways it is harder. But it has to start somewhere and they have to see that the public supports it.

By twajetmech on 10/9/2007 5:17:43 PM , Rating: 4
Without radio, how des the RIAA expect to advertise their artist' work ? Maaybe the radio stations should start charging them to play their music instead, after all the RIAA is effectively stealing valuable commercial time

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