Sunday, December 30, 2007

RIAA runs amok

By Libby

Back in the dark ages when I was young, musicians used to make vinyl albums. If you only wanted one song, you could buy a 45, which for you young folks who might not remember, was a little vinyl disk that required an insert so you could play it on your Hi-Fi. The first 45 I bought was Roses are Red by Bobby Vinton. The second was the Beatles, I Want to Hold Your Hand but I bought it for the B-side, This Boy.

Eventually, technology evolved to enable you to record from the albums to tape and this was good. Rarely does anyone love every song on an album and this allowed the listener to assemble compilations of their favorite songs. The industry whined about copyrights then too, but they didn't sue anyone since you still had to buy the album to get the songs and besides there was no practical way to track who was trading cassettes with their friends.

Now the latest technology allows the listener to download music without ever visiting a record store and share it much more widely. It also allows the record companies to track who is doing the sharing. I'll admit, I do have a little sympathy for the recording companies. To some extent, file sharing with hundreds or thousands of strangers starts to resemble stealing and the industry should be able to protect its product, but this is definitely a step that goes too far.

Now, in an unusual case in which an Arizona recipient of an RIAA letter has fought back in court rather than write a check to avoid hefty legal fees, the industry is taking its argument against music sharing one step further: In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.

This is such a greedy and stupid move. The industry needs to realize that it can't have complete control over its product once its sold, especially when their product isn't all that great anymore. Just as in every media format, the music industry has consolidated to the point where creativity is stifled and only a handful of artificially assembled groups get promoted. Most of them aren't really that good.

More and more musicians, in response to being shut out or otherwise exploited by the big labels, are taking their work directly to the public via the internet. Many give their work away for free to promote their tours. It's a model consumers have responded to positively. The recording industry could take a lesson here and adapt their own business model because if it continues to try to criminalize its remaining consumer base by threatening them with draconian rules of use, that base is likely to disappear altogether.

[cross-posted to The Reaction]

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Blogger nolocontendere said...

The genie's out of the bottle, isn't it? Business has to adapt to technology, not the other way around IMO.

I can't recall what my first 45 purchase was, I do remember thinking .49 cents was a rip off at the time. First album was Herman's Hermits. Still have it out in the garage I think.

Happy New Year to you, Libby, I hope it's a good one for you.

1:29:00 AM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Indeed Nolo. And a happy new year to you and yours as well.

7:31:00 AM  
Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

The first 45 I bought was Johnny Cash's "ring of Fire" My mother was aghast. I started a lifelong interest in electronics by needing to build radios to listen to Rock & Roll with headphones late at night because the common wisdom, shared by my parents, was that that stuff would destroy my moral fiber - such as it was. I had long since abandoned pop culture in disgust by the time Herman's Hermits climbed out from whatever it was they lived under.

There are a lot of musicians in my family and I don't think any of them believe the recording industry is doing them any favor.

8:54:00 AM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

LOL Fogg. No wonder you're such an electronics whiz now with that kind of incentive.

I have a lot of musicians in my life, most of my friends back up north make something of a living at it and the record companies have been very very bad to them. That's the beauty of the technology now, they build their own little studio and just put out their own albums.

12:03:00 PM  

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