Friday, June 02, 2006

Grand theft audio

I just finished reading coverage of a debate on whether the RIAA should sue its own customers that was held a while ago at the University of Pittsburgh. Arguing in favor of continued lawsuits was Geoffrey L. Beauchamp, Pennsylvania state counsel for the Recording Industry Association of America. His opinion as a legal representative of the record industry -- the tired old line 'filesharing is the same as stealing' -- exposes the industry's utter lack of comprehension for its own demise:

'Consider it as if you were a shopkeeper in a bad neighborhood and your grocery store was beset by shoplifters... Instead of calling the police, your neighbors came to you and said, "Don't call the police... you might want to change your business model."'

Let's break this analogy down: The shopkeeper (RIAA) is in a bad neighborhood (the Internet) and its grocery store (music distribution and retail cartel) is beset by shoplifters (filesharers). Instead of calling the police (lawyers and lobbyists), your neighbors (digital music technology innovators) say, 'Don't call the police (DMCA a.k.a. CRAP)... you might want to change your business model (selling little plastic discs).

Hell yeah, you change your business model! Your business model is over! You've already tried to heighten your security systems to deter shoplifters (DRM/CRAP). But you focused so much on restricting people's ability to steal your product that it made it harder to even use your product, which only motivated more shoplifting!

But they kept stealing, so you changed your location (online music stores and subscription servies). But by then it was too late, because the neighborhood you moved into (the Internet) already had bigger, better, more convenient grocery stores (peer-to-peer networks and free music archives).

Instead of changing their business model to succeed in this new environment, the recording industry reached back into the bag of organized crime tricks it keeps handy for situations such as this. Unfortunately, this time they were caught red-handed.

Music retailers conspired to illegally fix the prices of CDs. Suddenly, every RIAA grocery store was selling mlik at ten dollars a gallon.

Record labels used illegal payola schemes to buy airplay for their singles, and radio stations were ever eager to take the bribes. Sure, the RIAA grocery stores stock a variety of products, but 75% of their store consists of the same 20 items.

Record labels even stopped sending some artists their royalty checks, claiming they had lost contact. They used every shady accounting practice they could to siphon money out of the artist's pocket and into theirs. They sold the meat but stiffed the butcher.

The industry sold corrupt CDs with malicious software that threatened the stability of its customer's computers. The RIAA grocery stores were selling spoiled meat!

And even though the brick-and-mortar stores had already been caught price-fixing, that didn't stop the record label-sanctioned online music stores from participating in the same illegal act. Now you could order price-fixed, payola-promoted spoiled meat online!

And yet, listeners still pile into the run-down RIAA grocery store to purchase tainted food, and artists still dream about having their product on display. It has already been shown that the RIAA and the recording industry elite refuse to change their business model. What will it take for listeners and artists to change their shopping habits?