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An interview with the misguided RIAA

Don Reisinger's latest column about the RIAA made some cringe. But if you enjoyed that, take a look at the full transcript of the interview to see just how bad it was.

Now that you had the chance to read my column detailing the misguided beliefs of the RIAA, I wanted to give you the opportunity to see the full transcript of the interview I conducted with the organization.

You'll notice that none of the quotes from the previous column were taken out of context because, well, first and foremost, I didn't need to--this organization speaks for itself. You'll also notice that the RIAA really is all of those things most people believe they are. Of course, don't necessarily tell them that, because they won't believe it.

Regardless, this interview depicts the RIAA exactly how they want to be perceived--a group that relies on (and enjoys) lawsuits. It's an organization that has little idea of what we truly want as consumers and, for some reason, has a severe distaste for college students.

In response to my column, one RIAA representative told me that it's easy "to sit on the sidelines and take potshots. It's less easy when you actually have a dog in the fight."

Is it really? Personally, I think it's a sad day when an organization needs to call upon its high-powered lawyers just because it has "a dog in the fight." Along with that, what is that dog in the fight? The artists or the record labels? My guess is the latter.

But without further ado, here is the unabridged transcript of my interview with the RIAA.

Don: Please tell me who you are and what you do.

RIAA: Cara Duckworth, spokeswoman for the RIAA.

Don: What can you tell me about the college deterrence program?

RIAA: Began last February. It was becoming clearer that despite cool new legal services and the ongoing educational efforts, too many students--some of music's biggest fans--were getting their music illegally and learning the wrong lessons about stealing and the law. There had to be a deterrence factor involved so that individuals knew that along with personal consequences (i.e., viruses, spyware infiltrating hard drive) there would also be legal consequences to engaging in illegal downloading behavior. Bringing lawsuits was by no means our first choice, but a necessary step we had to take.

Don: Why college students?

RIAA: First, it should be clarified that our college campaign is in addition to the lawsuits we file against individuals using commercial ISPs to illegally download and distribute music. Second, college students have reached a stage in life when their music habits are crystallized, and their appreciation for intellectual property has not yet reached its full development. These two points coupled together present challenges to those who would like to be compensated for their creative works. Understanding the value of intellectual property is important to the future job market for many of these students--industries that rely on copyright protection employ more than 11 million workers nationwide and continue to grow.

Don: What group of people do you see pirating the most music?

RIAA: While college students used to be some of music's greatest fans, unfortunately that is no longer the case. I would point you to the evidence of the extensiveness of music theft amongst college campuses from Student Monitor and other market research firms to show why we are focusing some of our efforts on universities.

Don: How do you respond to people who say your organization is a group of bullies?

RIAA: I have to step back for a moment. These are certainly heavy issues and none which we take lightly. When an individual is caught illegally downloading music, it sometimes happens that the person creates a stir. The reality of it is that nobody wants to get caught and most people complain when they are. The music industry has lost more than $3 billion in sales over the last few years. Bringing lawsuits is certainly no one's ideal answer--we're well aware of that. But if we had sat on our hands and chosen to do nothing about the piracy problem as the music industry was hemorrhaging jobs and lost sales, imagine what the extent of theft would be today and how the legal marketplace would be struggling to gain traction. The digital music marketplace is demonstrably better because of our efforts.

Don: How have you addressed those huge pirating cartels overseas? Are you going for a soft target?

RIAA: Our preference--first and foremost--is to take action against the services themselves that facilitate the illegal downloading and distribution of copyrighted works. We are actively assisting efforts by policy makers in Washington to encourage countries whose copyright laws have not kept up with the times or who do not appropriately enforce intellectual property violations. Additionally, we are affiliated with IFPI, which represents the interest of the global music community and assists in the enforcement of copyright infringement cases outside of the U.S.

Don: Do you think your policy of lawsuits and settlements work?

RIAA: Absolutely. Since we began this initiative, we've seen a P2P problem that once was growing at dizzying speeds essentially flatten out. People are now more aware of what is legal and illegal when it comes to downloading music. But more importantly, bringing lawsuits is only one piece of the pie--we are actively investing resources in the education of students of all ages on the value of music and importance of copyrights and, perhaps most importantly, music companies are continuously partnering with exciting new services that offer fans an array of innovative opportunities to access their favorite music.

Don: Why do you think you're such a disliked organization?

RIAA: I don't agree with the loaded premise of the question. In some online quarters, there may be lots of heat about the tough stands we sometimes must take. But amongst the general public, the favorability ratings of the record industry remain as positive as ever and surpass other forms of entertainment like movie or TV studios. I believe my answer to question No. 5 can apply here as well. But let it be said--the RIAA is much more than lawsuits. For example, we also are responsible for the Gold & Platinum program awarding artists who have achieved successful album sales and are active proponents of free speech in music. But no one likes lawsuits, and no one likes to get caught. It's not an ideal situation for any party involved. But with all the new, innovative legal alternatives in the marketplace (and more emerging on almost a daily basis), the music community is proactively offering fans ways to avoid lawsuits and get their favorite music at affordable prices.

Don: How do you respond to the people who say you're going after grandmothers and young children when you should be going after real criminals in gunships?

RIAA: I'd give them the facts and encourage them not to believe everything they read that aggressively villainizes the organization. We have a physical antipiracy unit that assists law enforcement agents in shutting down piracy operations both big and small. Oftentimes street peddlers selling bootlegged copies of music are also involved in large-scale drug and weapons trafficking, and we find clear evidence of that on raids. As for individuals themselves, we have no way of screening defendants based on demographics, socioeconomic status, or perceived sympathy. Upon initial discovery of a violation, we have an IP address, a sampling of the files that were shared, and a timestamp of the activity. We consistently follow the prescribed legal process to obtain identifying information and always try to be fair and reasonable in resolving each of our cases.

Don: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

RIAA: Regarding our college initiative, a university's role in reducing the level of piracy on its campus cannot be overemphasized. We have consistently said that the more proactive a school is in the education of its students regarding its IT and enforcement policies, the offering of great legal alternatives so that students can have access to their favorite music (at deeply discounted prices or even for free), and most importantly, implementing effective technology that helps protect the integrity of its network, will lead to fewer instances of violations and fewer instances of hearing from us--a win for everybody!

So there you have it. The full interview with the RIAA.

Have a field day.