Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Thank God for the ever-vigilant eye of the RIAA. Now we don’t have to cower in fear over vicious criminals threatening our society, like this vermin. Take that bitch down, Hilary Rosen.

OK, besides providing a really horrible example of tineared, clueless public relations in action, does anyone really think the RIAA’s new crusade is going to do a damn thing to stop filesharing? I’m not sure if the RIAA thinks that people are going to stop doing something if it’s illegal - the same logic that stopped drug use and alcoholism in this country cold. I’ll give them some credit for intelligence and assume that their real intent is to make filesharing such a pain in the ass that no one would be willing to bother doing it, but that strategy hasn’t worked well to this point. Every time the most popular filesharing service is killed through legal action (ie Napster, Audiogalaxy), another one sprouts up to take its place. As long as there are programming experts with some sort of vague grudge against the world at large (and, gee, think the supply of those types will be running out any time soon?), there will be filesharing systems on the internet. And the ancillary fallout from suing your own customers is bound to come back and bite the music industry - either you’re needlessly pissing off the people who buy your albums in the first place, or you’re irritating poor college kids who weren’t going to buy anything anyway, since all their money is going to be spent on Ramen noodles and pot.

But even for those of us who have the money and are willing to go legit, there simply aren’t any viable options available at this point. OK, iTunes and eMusic are promising, but neither has the selection that can be found on even the lighter trafficked filesharing sites. The allure of filesharing for music geeks such as myself is that the rare, obscure stuff that isn’t going to turn a profit margin for anyone is now readily available. Will iTunes provide you with that obscure 50’s rockabilly tune, or that bootleg of Velvet Underground live at the Factory, or the entire Game Theory catalog? It’s hard for them to justify providing rare recordings on a cost-benefit level, but through filesharing the handful of us who like that stuff can finally have access without having to visit hundreds of used record stores and pay through the nose for imports that are often of dubious legality themselves.

I can’t blame the RIAA for doing this. The recording industry is facing technical obsolescence, just as the movie industry will face when DVD burners and broadband connections become the coin of the realm in modern entertainment systems. They provide services that are becoming increasingly irrelevant, and they are trying to scratch and claw to keep their piece of the pie from disappearing altogether. But it’s difficult to see how this strategy will do anything to stop the bleeding. Ultimately, just like with home taping and VCR recording a generation ago, they’ll have to figure out a way to make money off of filesharing or die out completely.

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