In the most recent round of legal
proceedings — initiated by the Recording Industry Association
of America against nine University students — the RIAA has
continued along a road of obstructionism, choosing to oppose
file-sharing technology instead of growing with it. Posing as the
sole voice of a vast community of performing artists — a
community that is divided on the RIAA’s file-sharing policy
— the RIAA is falsely claiming to act on behalf of all its
members. This misrepresentation is a testament to the RIAA’s
inefficiency as a middleman organization. In targeting individuals
to pay for patently inmeasurable sales damages, the RIAA has made a
second mistake: assuming that punishing a few will affect, or make
up for, the actions of the many.

Laura Wong

The RIAA blames file-sharing for recent decreases in its
profits. It has made this claim to the exclusion of other valid
factors: inflated CD prices, the labels’ creative stagnation
and the economic downturn. Still, declining sales represent just
one of the RIAA’s many problems. Within the organization, a
large group of artists — the Recording Artists’
Coalition, which includes Bruce Springsteen and Elton John —
have vocally disagreed with the RIAA’s policies on
file-sharing lawsuits and other issues. Amid this dissent, the
RIAA’s claim that it represents all of its member musicians
is purely false.

Despite their disagreement, even dissenting musicians must
endure the damage done by the lawsuits to the recording
industry’s reputation. The RIAA is naïve to assume that
legal attacks on its target markets will not hurt sales. In fact,
in choosing to attack file-sharing individuals, it is lashing out
against its best potential customers. The RIAA should tap this
market by using technology to its advantage. Its present approach
only erodes and demoralizes the community that once was, and could
be again, its most loyal customer.

Taking action against individuals in hopes of stopping the
file-sharing community is a mistaken measure. Although 532 lawsuits
have been filed, millions continue to share files. It is impossible
to measure the impact of file-sharing on record sales, but it is
certainly safe to say that the RIAA’s seizure of
students’ hard-earned money is an ineffective and unethical
way of recouping losses: The lawsuits have not stopped the

The RIAA’s punitive lawsuits threaten the reputation of
the entire musical community, even while members of that community
oppose them. Its attacks on individuals are inappropriate and
ultimately ineffective against the file-sharing phenomenon. It is
time for the RIAA to change its approach.

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