Andrew rants… A court in the US has ordered a woman to pay $222,000 (£109,000) in damages for illegally file-sharing music. The jury ordered Jammie Thomas, 32, from Minnesota, to pay for offering to share 24 specific songs online – a cost of $9,250 per song.
$9,250 per song?? While I understand that what Jammie was doing is seen as illegal, having to pay $9,250 per song is bordering on the insane. Take out the resellers fees and doing some completely incorrect and unsubstantiated mathematics, she is effectively paying the US recording industry more than 12,000 times per song she shared.
There are a few points which really grate on my mind with this issue.
- She is allegedly in the wrong, but ruining her life by taking 1/4 of her paycheque over 24 songs for the rest of her life is morally incorrect and just plain wrong. Putting a shackle around somebody’s neck like this for the rest of their life is a completely unbalanced punishment which clearly demonstrates just how detached from reality the RIAA and their lawyers are.
- 288,000 (12,000 * 24 songs) people who downloaded music directly or indirectly from Jammie over Kazza now have a paid for (and legal) copy of the tune. This should be taken into account when the US recording industry incorrectly try to sue these people.
- What the RIAA don’t take into account is the music that people download, without paying for, which they had no intention of buying anyway; these people are just downloading it to explore new music. I could make a wild (but definitely correct) assumption that many people who have “illegally” downloaded tracks would not have contributed to the RIAA’s coffers anyway even if file sharing did not exist – so this is NOT lost revenue. Music sharing simply opens up a free advertising channel for new fans who would subsequently purchase merchandise and see gigs leading to increased revenue for the artist.
This aggression is only going to fuel more hatred from the general masses, and certainly has done for me. While I have bought music online, I do think it is too expensive and the current move towards DRM free and artist direct bought music is a great one in my mind.
With the evolving and modern model of music distribution provided by the internet, the record label plays a much smaller (or no) cog in the gearbox of an artist getting their music to fans or potential fans. Take for one example the Pandora / Music Gnome project, which leads people to find new artists without and intervention of traditional promotional methods. Along with file sharing, the artist no longer needs the record label as they did in the 90s, they have the chance to go it alone and be just as successful.
The US record industry has two choices. Firstly, they could accept their inevitable demise and realise that the days of fat cigars and comfortable leather directors chairs are numbered. Secondly, they could adapt – and FAST – to a more modern model of music distribution, stop suing people and try and win back some popularity of the general population and artists.
Its the only way they will still be here next decade.