Filed Under: technology
Published On: November 17, 2008
Wired.com picked up on an AP story regarding Harvard law professor Charles Nesson challenging the RIAA’s legal campaign on some rather new grounds. I tend to follow the ongoing saga of the RIAA rather avidly, and cracked a smile when I saw a quote from Nesson. Apparently his goal is to “turn the courts away from allowing themselves to be used like a low-grade collection agency.”
That single line sums up my feelings regarding the debacle that the RIAA has found itself in. The internet and the portable music revolution turned out to be a game changer for the music industry. And it wasn’t the first time this happened. When the phonograph was introduced, many of the same arguments(pdf) were made regarding loss of sales, unauthorized reproductions, and copyright. The difference is, the music industry changed then. At this point, they’re still dragging their feet.
I do believe that downloading music is wrong, however, I also believe that the what we collectively refer to as the music industry has had ample opportunity to respond to the changing world and has fought the implied need to adapt kicking and screaming.
Of course, I should beg the obvious question: how would I feel if my works were being illegally reproduced? Well, for one thing, I do freely distribute a good many of my written works. The average post here on my website is reproduced on between eight and twenty other websites, often to merely sell advertisements. The unspoken half of that question deals with long form writing. The computer monitor is not well suited to reproduce works in excess of 10,000 words, not when compared to printed paper. Epaper is a good alternative, but still sits outside of the price points of most consumers. The two major producers of epaper based readers, Sony and Amazon, both managed to monetize the market immediately, adapting before the problem even arose. Both make stealing a novel simply not worth the trouble. But, that’s not the real reason I am not worried.
Book reading has become what no one in the publishing industry wants to admit – a niche market. Yes, when extrapolated across the general population it’s a large niche, but for the most part, most people do not read books. The recording industry, perhaps what we should now call the classic recording industry, needs to understand that physical reproductions have become marginalized. The compact disc is now a niche market, comparable to vinyl. Tying up the court system and intimidating fans of music with the prospect of lengthy and expensive court cases only tarnishes the image of the industry.
It’s time to admit that and carry on. There’s always money to be made off of music, the member organizations of the RIAA just need to find better ways to do it. Court costs and damages are, of course, a poor means to do a financial end.