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RIAA Sues 261 File Swappers The Same Day Apple Announces Its 10,000,000th Download Sold Print E-mail
Wednesday, 10 September 2003
For years the RIAA has been playing the bad cop in the good cop-bad cop relationship it has with the music industry but yesterday the RIAA transformed itself into Dirty Harry by suing 261 active file swappers. Reportedly the people sued are file swappers with over 1000 copywritten songs in their shared folder which allows others to download the songs without paying for them. This aggressive move by the RIAA comes the same day that Apple announced its 10,000,000th pay-download from its outrageously successful iTunes store-software which was launched a mere four months ago.

Up until just recently, there have been no viable consumer pay-per-download sites which drove consumers who were looking to acquire music online to sites like Napster and other peer-to-peer networks such as Gnutella. Now with a reborn legitimate Napster (owned by Roxio), a successful iTunes from Apple and a promising BuyMusic.com all on the market, consumers now have a legal and effective way to buy many (but far from all) of the songs they want in a convenient format directly over the internet. With sales figures in the tens of millions, clearly the majority of people who want to download music are willing to do it by the rules. The success of the new download sites is seemingly not enough deterrent for the RIAA. In an effort to not look like they are so heavy-handed, the RIAA is offering an “Amnesty” program where a user can admit they were a rampant downloader, delete their files and promise not to file swap ever again. Consumers say they worry about privacy issues in admitting they were aggressively file sharing.

Ken Lopez, a Music Industry program professor at the Thornton School of Music at The University of Southern California, says that “The genie is out of the bottle with MP3s.” Friends now share files from one hard drive to another without ever going on the internet where they can get caught.

The music business has even bigger problems with its consumers, especially Generation Y, who feel that the record labels don’t offer them a fair value for their dollar versus AV software like video games and DVD movies. The question now being asked, is suing customers a good way to build loyalty among the record buying public at any generation? And if the genie is really out of the bottle with MP3 files that can be easily ripped from billions of existing CDs in the market, why isn’t the RIAA spending their effort touting their support of higher resolution, surround sound formats that have copy protection on them such as DVD-Audio and SACD?

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