I’m starting to give up hope whether the Recording Industry Association of
America will ever “get it.” Ahead of Napster’s opening arguments slated for
early next month in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, the
RIAA has stepped up its tattletale efforts to start policing the dangerous
criminal element living on college campuses everywhere.
Acting on a formal tip from the RIAA, the Oklahoma University Cowboys
campus swat team raided the dorm room of a 19-year-old student. They were
horrified to discover a trashcan full of empty beer cans buried underneath
a mountain of unwashed laundry, two overdue credit card bills, a
dilapidated pair of shower flip-flops, and a Pi Kappa Alpha pledge pin. So
how come this slacker of higher learning may actually be facing felony
charges and a new roomie named Bubba?
Our college friend is alleged to have downloaded more than 1,000 music
singles to his hard drive while recklessly sharing them with friends and
roommates using Napster. *gasp* As it turns out, colleges buckling under
threat of lawsuits from music industry whiners are making Napster users
public enemy number one. University officials made this grisly discovery
after the RIAA sent a letter notifying the cowering Cowboys that it had
detected a suspiciously high volume of music downloads to the campus’
OSU police Lieutenant Steve Altman said he’s got his best computer forensic
gumshoe on the case analyzing files on the computer’s hard drive. So far,
officials working the case have found a troubling and extensive collection
of Barry Manilow’s greatest hits, but were quick to note that their suspect
does not appear to have been trying to profit in any way from the downloads.
Ok, folks. That’s all the sarcasm from me. Now let me tell you a few things
worth noting. First off, this so-called case is a big nothing burger.
College campus police are typically little more than Keystone Cops who’d be
hard-pressed to differentiate copyright infringement from a parking
infraction. In this case, the investigating officers conducted a highly
publicized bust on an unremarkable college student in an effort to fend off
pressure from the sue-happy RIAA. Ultimately, there’ll be no charges of
substance filed against the student; but by that time, no one will be
paying attention, and the RIAA will have long since moved on to harass some
other university faculty.
Publicly, the RIAA claims its actions are simply part of its anti-piracy
crusade. Privately, the trade group representing the U.S. recording
industry is cheering OSU’s move to consider criminal charges against the
student. Quite simply, the RIAA is warming to its dual role as a new
economy bully and the Internet’s most vocal snitch. It hopes actions that
bolster that image will help strike fear into hearts of evildoers
everywhere. But in reality, the average kid in a candy store taking
advantage of Napster, Gnutella, or Freenet, has nothing to fear
from the RIAA now or ever.
The RIAA represents the $14 billion recording industry, with member
companies that have a monopoly on creating, manufacturing, and distributing
music in the U.S. With a simple 1
MB download, peer-to-peer users have virtually debunked a music cartel
overnight. While the RIAA’s cease-and-desist letters have made some headway
scaring colleges into submission, its latest Nerf ball goon tactics will
only serve to incite students. There’s no group more irreverent and eager
to challenge the establishment – whatever that establishment may be.
Unfortunately, early legal decisions have given recording industry
proponents a false sense of security. After the courts rule against Napster
in its high profile legal battle, another peer-to-peer riva
l will gladly
replace it. And it’ll be one that relies on no central server, and one
which cannot be sued out of existence.
Opponents have long pleaded with the recording industry to hurry up and
offer a buffet of downloadable music for sale, surmising that most
consumers would be willing to pay for their music collection. However,
after the constant lack of goodwill shown by the industry in general toward
college students and the like, the target demographic with the most
disposable income to waste on music CDs, I have my doubts. What may
materialize instead is a consensus feeling that downloading your music
collection for free strikes a blow against an industry built on greed, and
bent on biting the hand that feeds it.
Any questions or comments, love letters or hate mail? As always, feel
free to forward them to [email protected].
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