After reading the article about the Recording Industry of America in Monday’s Daily (RIAA to Students: Pay Up, 03/05/06), I was pretty sure the entire music industry somehow collapsed and I didn’t hear about it. I figured the executives and artists had lost so much money, they had no other choice but to sue undergrads to repay the massive losses piracy had inflicted upon them. Then I realized this wasn’t the case: everything was fine and at least one of the As in RIAA stood for “assholes.”

In fact, I’m pretty sure that instead of worrying about whether his last album sold 10 or 10.1 million copies, Justin Timberlake is still checking his Rolex, debating if he should bang Jessica Biel or Scarlett Johansson. I’m also guessing P. Diddy isn’t filing for unemployment yet; he’s busy fueling up his Gulf-stream and sipping Cristal. The same goes for the record execs. Call me when they can’t pay for the Ferraris that cost more than my house.

This may sound like a steal-from-the-rich-to-give-to-the poor scenario, because, well, that’s exactly what it is. There’s no massive influx of jobs flooding out of Los Angeles. It’s only the rich who suffer, and it’s only the rich who are complaining.

Do they want to see what a real industry crisis looks like? Look at Michigan. Thousands of autoworkers are laid off daily due to increased competition within the industry.

And that’s exactly what they’re saying the problem is. Competition. Their competition is selling their product for free, and all we get from their offices is that they’re suing college students for downloading the only good song off the new Fallout Boy CD retailing at $18.75.

Going after college kids? We can’t even afford to buy more than one topping on our pizzas much less pay fines of $750 to $150,000 a song. For a student with around 2,000 pirated songs, the estimated fine would be anywhere between $1.5 and $300 million. And their friends who have their entire hard drives full of music? The fines could theoretically top $1 billion.

Do they think they can put fear in us with potential fines and lawsuits? The reason the RIAA is trying to settle instead of suing is because if they actually went to court, everyone would laugh at how ludicrous the suggested penalties are. And if we’re halting construction on some vice president’s Maui beach house or preventing some rapper from getting a gold toilet installed in his bathroom, I think I speak for all of us when I say we don’t care.

The important things in the music industry haven’t change since piracy began other this cycle of intimidation and threats by the record labels toward their own customers. New artists are still getting discovered every day. Kids are still supporting their favorite bands by buying CDs. Established stars are still making millions or going to rehab. And rich music executives are still greedy bastards. The real artists out there are just happy people are listening to their music, and the ones who are complaining need to look around and see if they even deserve everything they already have.

The RIAA has always maintained that stealing music is like walking into a store and cramming your pockets with CDs. But if the store has no employees, no cameras and no security guards, why the hell am I going to stop and pay an outrageous price for something I barely want in the first place? Piracy is far too easy not to do, and therefore everyone does. Even the CEO of Warner Brothers admitted his kids pirate music. If the RIAA really wants to do something about it, they should go after the file-sharing networks themselves. And the truth is they have been trying, and while some have been shut down, others like Limewire have been proven in court not to be operating in any illegal manner. So now they resort to picking us off one by one.

In times like these there isn’t an avenue for the fun, harmless brand of crime Robin Hood made popular. Piracy is our generation’s form of protest against a corporate landscape that drives us to an insatiable consumption of commercial goods. Or maybe we’re just lazy college kids who like free stuff.

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