The trial proceedings of Capitol Records v.
Jammie Thomas are continuously proving their worth as a fascinating
insight the RIAA’s 4-years-and-counting campaign against P2P users.
One such insight: despite the fact that a vast majority of the RIAA’s nastygrams
result in settlements amounting to a few thousand dollars, Sony’s Jennifer
Pariser admitted under oath that the RIAA has spent “millions” of dollars on
the campaign and, more importantly, “lost
money on [the] program.”
But really, could it be any other way? Surely, between the RIAA’s own lawyers
and the enforcers that they hire (SafeNet, MediaDefender, etc) the costs per
settlement are far in excess of whatever measly amount the RIAA can settle for.
Perhaps the RIAA could try to settle for more, but unfortunately for them $2,000
- $6,000 seems to be the sweet spot; raise it any higher and more people may
opt to go to court, sending legal costs through the roof.
It’s important to note that the RIAA’s “enforcement program” is designed to
settle infringement claims quickly, giving defendants multiple opportunities at
settlement before going through an expensive court trial. This system – which
seems to be working modestly, if unprofitably, well and even allows payment online – is perhaps the best
manifestation of the above conclusion. After all, lawyers are expensive, why
involve them in anything more than you have to?
I’d also wager that in its haste, the RIAA ends up cutting many expensive
corners, like not
going through the lengths needed to properly identify users (and then blaming the ISPs
when caught), or suing
dead people. These mistakes end up costing them: each one gets published
and scattered along the internet’s winds, the mistake often ends up being taken
to court, and the suit is eventually dropped. In turn, the RIAA files
additional complaints with the expectation that they will be settled quickly
and cheaply, inviting further opportunity for mistakes. It’s a vicious cycle.
It pleases me to see that someone in the industry finally understands that the
hard-lining attitude on digital music isn’t exactly working. Mentioning EMI’s dropping DRM from its
iTunes offerings – practically an invitation for piracy if there ever was
one – may be beating on a dead horse, but it’s an important sign pointing towards
this much-needed shift in thought. Further, the recent switch to DRM-free
offerings from Wal-Mart,
Amazon, or even
services like Joost are, I believe, clear
indicators that we are finally moving in a positive direction.