Wednesday, March 02, 2005

How not to succeed in the new era

The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) is at it again. This time in a series of suits designed more for harassment than any legitimate purpose (what else is new) they have sued a dead person, several people who haven't a clue about file sharing and a bunch of universities - who seem to be included because they have the audacity of maintaining a network for their students and faculty.

It should be a requirement that any member of the RIAA wear wooden shoes because these yahoos are really like their counterparts over several centuries who are not bright enough to look to the future. The claim made by the RIAA is that millions (billions, trillions) of dollars are being lost to illegal downloads of music. The data does not support the contention but that has not seemed to stop these buzzards.

Professor Lessig at Stanford, who has done some of the most interesting thinking about the relationship of technology to copyright - tells the story in one of his books about the first videotape producers who came to Disney and said - we have this great idea for a new technology. The Disney people were having none of it. Ultimately, the increase in market created by these new forms of home viewing of movies have transformed the industry and enlarged profits.

I have about 3000 songs on my laptop - to help fill my iPod - and all of them are legal - either from my own collection of from the iTunes site. Indeed, at one point I used Napster and Limewire to search for music which was no longer available. But I soon discovered that the free sites had a lot of problems. They rarely offered the full cut of a song. Quality was uneven. Connections were also uneven. The iTunes alternative became a quick and wonderful alternative to the lousy quality of the alternative services.

Markets will always figure out a way to price things reasonably. Were the RIAA even minimally adept they would try to lead the trend in the direction that would be helpful to artists and consumers. But of course that is not who they really care about.

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