RIAA: Actual Damages Unknown
October 21, 2007 11:35 AM
comment(s) - last by
Testimony from Jammie Thomas' case discredit the litany of figures quoted over the years
In continuing with the theme of
Capitol Records v. Jammie Thomas
I bring you yet another
wonderful little tidbit
to drop from the mouth of Sony’s Head of Litigation, Jennifer Pariser: Sony – and likely the RIAA – doesn’t really know just how much money they’ve lost due to piracy.
In the same block of testimony where the Pariser disclosed that the RIAA’s lawsuit campaign is costing “millions” more than it earns, Thomas’ counsel pounced on the fact that the record industry was only seeking the punitive damages available in the Copyright Act. “What are your actual damages?” he asked.
Here we go. “We haven't stopped to calculate the amount of damages we've suffered due to downloading,” replied Pariser, who then added that, “that's not what's at issue here.” (Judge Michael Davis, who was overseeing the case, quickly remanded her to stay on topic.)
This statement runs counter to the numerous claims that the RIAA has made over the years regarding piracy and the industry’s actual suffering. One of the more recent claims, found under the “students doing reports”
of the RIAA’s web site, cites a conservative estimate of $300 million worth of losses.
, released by the Institute for Policy Innovation, quoted worldwide losses due to piracy at $12.5 billion USD and over 71,000 jobs.
Pariser could have easily cited either of those numbers as part of her explanation of ‘actual damages’ – unless, of course, the facts regarding that those figures are less than certain. Remember, she’s under oath here.
Over the years, there’s been a long tradition in
debunking the dollar amounts
that the RIAA has cited as money lost due to so-called piracy. People find all sorts of interesting explanations: lost CD sales are actually converted to
music purchases at iTunes
, lost CD sales are due to a
decreased demand and rising prices
, that piracy actually helps to promote the purchases of music, and so on and so forth. While I’m not going to argue that piracy doesn’t have
kind of effect, it does seem that if the industry wants to convince more government officials of its plight, at least it could get its figures straight.
When and if the music industry releases some honest-to-God figured that aren’t skewed, the big question then becomes one of trust: can we believe
numbers? Will we, the people, ever believe a word to come out of their mouths?
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
10/22/2007 8:00:15 PM
Many people support the RIAA's actions because their own lifelihood dependent on enforcement of intellectual property laws. They want an end to the culture of piracy, not fair compensation for the recording industry. So the numbers are basically irrelevant.
Piracy might not hurt the music industry as much as they claim, but others will not be so fortunate. I personally work in education. Electronic books are still in infancy, so file sharing is yet a large problem. But eventually they'll be the dominant medium. How could the author of a college textbook make money if people could just download it for free? You can't go out and give live performance. You can't put advertisements in your book. And will piracy of textbooks lead to more sales? Would cash-strapped college students elect to pay $50 because they're big fans of your work? I don't think so.
10/22/2007 10:11:01 PM
Ahhh... your logic works to an extent... but breaks down. Textbooks are priced so tragically high because of low print runs. It's damn expensive to produce a few thousand books vs producing the same in electronic format.
In reality, the advent of electronic media, and piracy will force a new paradigm in all sorts of media. Music and movies are simply the first to get hit in a sense. More then likely, texts will be rolled into course fees, and the publisher will simply sell it to schools.
Now, not in the traditional sense of sell, but figure the course fees rise by x dollars (x < then paper text equivalent). Learning media becomes cheaper, and academia protects itself through the internalization of 'book' purchasing.
And honestly, if this electronic copy gets out to the public for free, the knowledge spread will be good for human kind. Added to that the texts, without the degree are worthless to the market anyway.
Win Win. Greater spread of knowledge, cheaper textbooks, and a protected system of distribution, as Academia will protect itself.
Apply this method to public schools, but with a much larger student base, the texts will still be cheaper for schools to buy then present, and on top of the publisher can manage same profit. Governments tend to purchase most books for elementary, and secondary school anyway.
Do we cry now or later for book printers losing their cut??
"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." -- Sony BMG attorney Jennifer Pariser
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