Lawsuits or not, the RIAA still doesn't understand us

The recording industry will stop suing individuals and lean on ISPs to curtail piracy. Don Reisinger thinks this is just another example of the RIAA not getting it.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

Today is an important day for file sharers: the RIAA has abandoned its mass lawsuit policy. In fact, the organization claims it will stop suing individuals who pirate music (except for the most egregious offenders) and instead, lean on ISPs to battle piracy.

The Recording Industry Association of America will alert an Internet service provider whenever it believes a user is sharing music files illegally. That ISP will then notify the person that he or she has been caught file sharing and warn that if further activity is witnessed, it may throttle back the customer's service. There's currently no word on how many e-mails must be sent by the ISP before the throttling begins, but a similar idea was nixed by the EU recently over a parliamentary contention that the proposed "three strikes" policy violated civil and privacy rights of the affected individuals. So far, none of that backlash has hit the U.S.

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Will it? I certainly hope so.

See, while I'm pleased to hear that the RIAA has decided to abandon its ludicrous idea of suing individuals to get the millions across the globe that engage in file sharing to stop, I'm struck by how deep the RIAA's distaste for file sharing really goes.

I'm even more shocked by how little the music industry really understands about us.

I understand that a key part of the RIAA's job is to protect the record labels and part of that is stopping piracy. But doesn't the RIAA understand the real offenders are the piracy cartels overseas that have created an enterprise out of stealing music and movies? And most importantly, doesn't the RIAA understand that all the lost revenue the industry is dealing with has less to do with piracy and much more to do with its utter disregard for consumer desire?

When I consider that the RIAA has enlisted ISPs to stop piracy, it makes me sick. In essence, the organization is still targeting individuals, but has decided that it doesn't want to look like the ultimate bad guy, even though it really is. It's a cowardly move.

Why can't the RIAA and its label cronies stop with the fear of the Web already and just embrace online realities? A number of independent artists, as well as better-known bands like Radiohead have done extremely well offering their songs for free and asking for donations whenever people feel compelled to do so.

But that idea is unacceptable to the RIAA. See, the organization has a responsibility to the fat cats running the record labels to keep lining their pockets, while the artists -- those who could really benefit from labels embracing the Web -- need to hope that the pennies they make off each sold track will add up and turn into a living.

Though it's a small step in the right direction, the RIAA's decision to abandon lawsuits strikes me as little more than a PR stunt to make it seem like the organization is "growing up." In reality, it's still targeting the same people, but it's enlisting ISPs to do the dirty work for it. And even more saddening, its vision of the Web as a haven for pirates and criminals has remain unchanged.

Thanks for saving us lawyer fees, RIAA, but if you don't mind, call us when your industry really has changed its ways.

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