Satire: RIAA criminalizes remembering songs

Your brain infringes copyrights published a satire piece last month that is worth the read. The piece builds on a recent lawsuit in which the RIAA maintained that copying a legally purchased CD to your computer’s internal hard drive amounts to making an illegal copy. The author of the piece builds a fictionalized scenario in which the RIAA goes after consumers for remembering songs, claiming that they’ve made an illegal copy of the song in their brain, and that infringes on copyrights.

“The brain is a recording device,” explained RIAA president Cary Sherman. “The act of listening is an unauthorized act of copying music to that recording device, and the act of recalling or remembering a song is unauthorized playback.”

This seems outlandish, but judging by the RIAA recent actions, I’m not so sure it’s that far off base.

My favorite paragraph in the piece follows.

With this decision, the RIAA now considers approximately 72% of the adult U.S. population to be criminals. Putting them all in prison for copyright infringement would cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $683 billion per year — an amount that would have to be shouldered by the remaining 28% who are not imprisoned. The RIAA believes it could cover the $683 billion tab through royalties on music sales. The problem with that? The 28% remaining adults not in prison don’t buy music albums. That means album sales would plummet to nearly zero, and the U.S. government (which is already deep in debt) would have to borrow money to pay for all the prisons. And where would the borrowed money come from? China, of course: The country where music albums are openly pirated and sold for monetary gain.

I know this is fiction, but at times it does seem that the RIAA thinks all music consumers are thieves.

After you’ve read the piece, go visit The Long Tail and read this article about the idea of an author giving away his book, and think about the music business instead of the book business.

Then read this advise from Seth Godin, who suggests that the solution is to change the business model.

Here’s a key point from his blog post. This is just one of over a dozen pieces of advice he gives the industry.

8. Don’t panic when the new business model isn’t as ‚Äòclean’ as the old one
It’s not easy to give up the idea of manufacturing CDs with a 90% gross margin and switching to a blended model of concerts and souvenirs, of communities and greeting cards and special events and what feels like gimmicks. I know.

Get over it. It’s the only option if you want to stay in this business. You’re just not going to sell a lot of CDs in five years, are you?

If there’s a business here, first few in will find it, the rest lose everything.

  • GH

    I guess it does seem a bit over the top when RIAA says you can’t copy music to your computer. No doubt the record industry can be greedy and deserve to be made fun of at times. I personally don’t think this is one of those times. This is an issue that affects a lot of people.

    It’s a mistake to overlook the “context” and “intent” of any “legal” statement. We all know when cases go to court that legal terms and technicalities can make or break a case. With new ways of copying music coming out daily the RIAA is struggling to find legal footing to protect their investment. Every consumer is obviously not out to rip off the recording industry, but the pontential for consumers to mass produce music illegally is now in every teenagers bedroom and the RIAA is looking for legal language to prosecute those who do steal music. One person with one computer can pontentially “steal” hundreds of thousands of dollars of music.

    So, how do you stop those folks who choose to STEAL what does not belong to them? I guess you could just shoot them but no doubt some folks would get upset about that…you could “call the cops” but they might hurt themselves when they fall in the floor laughing…..or you “could” do the sensible thing and take them to court which is what the RIAA is doing, but even that is wrong according to this “satirist”.

    If the record companies don’t get paid a lot of other folks won’t get paid either. I’m not a big fan of the major labels but I also think music journalist need to be careful of making the RIAA out to be the bad guys for trying to LEGALLY protect a product they produced.

    I think articles like this one encourages those who do steal music. It strengthens the sterotype and promotes the idea its OK to STEAL from those big greedy record labels and their greedy lawyers and super star recording artist who are already filthy rich. Yes there are a few of those in the music industry but in reality the music industry is tens of thousands of little people just trying to make a living doing what they love. MUSIC. That’s what “I think” journalist should be focusing on. Pointing out that those who steal music hurt everyone involved. Like it or not when the big music labels suffer so do a lot of not so big and rich artist, musicians, songwriters,producers and engineers who are dependant on those labels for their next pay check. When people steal music, every honest person loses and a lot of folks get hurt. It’s not just the big greedy members of RIAA.

  • It’s already a crime to make copies of CDs for sale or trade, share files on the internet, etc. I’m not suggesting, and I don’t think the author of the story I linked is either, that it’s OK to steal copyrighted work. All I’m saying is that the wording in legal documents is very important, as you said.

    If the RIAA can win this case, against a guy I’m sure was file trading online, with wording stating that copying legally purchased CDs to your computer is a crime, then they have a legal precedent set.

    When I get a new CD here’s how I listen to it. I do listen to the CD in a CD player first, to see if I like it or not. If I do like it, I rip it with iTunes so I can listen at my computer, or with the iPod in the truck. So a CD gets played 1, maybe 2 times. Then I’m transferring the files to a more convenient, and portable, format.

    According to the wording of the RIAA lawsuit, I’m a criminal for copying those tracks to my computer and, I suppose, to my iPod. Even if I obtained the CD legally. Their ridiculous reasoning is that, if I have the file on my computer, I’m going to trade it online. They assume I’m a criminal, and so they want to stop me from being able to listen to music I’ve legally purchased, in the way I want to listen to it.

    This kind of thinking should be pointed out, before it becomes law. Artists and labels have every right to be concerned about people breaking the law and stealing music. But there is a difference between a thief and a consumer. As Seth Godin said, they need to stop worrying about a piece of plastic (CD) and figure out how to thrive in the digital world.

  • GH

    I’m fairly certian that on every CD purchased there is already a copyright symbol and that symbol is backed up by laws “on the books” that say you cannot copy or reproduce the contents with out written permission from the copyright holders. So, it could be reasonably argued that you have broken the law every time you copied a song on to your computer and the again on to your Ipod. In court however your defense would center around “fair use”. The RIAA is not taking every consumer to court because I’m sure they would agree what YOU are doing falls within “fair use” and since you have not distributed the music to others for “free” I’m fairly certian you would win your day in court. However if they brought your computer in and and could prove you duplicated or allowed duplication a thousand times, well now that’s a different deal. The RIAA has nothing to gain by harassing honest consumers but I believe they have every right to protect what they legally own. Still most press I see about the RIAA has a negative tone. Maybe their methods are not perfect but I simply don’t understand how/why they are portrayed as the bad guys instead of the theives.

    As far as Mr. Bodin’s theories he may or may not be right. He does not seem to have any “real” data so it is at best opinion. Only time will tell, but if he beleives his model to be correct he should start a record company and prove to the world how it’s supposed to be done. Who knows, if his model works he might turn out to be the Bill Gates of the digital music world; however if he merely sits on the sideline and tells everyone else how to run their business while he risk nothing he merely joins the ranks of a million other Monday morning quarterbacks.

  • GH

    Here’s another link on the subject. In this case it’s fairly clear the defendant did not cross the line of fair use by loading their cd’s on to their computer. It’s also clear that by placing the music in a shared folder and making it accessible on a file sharing website they fully INTENDED to go beyond their reasonable “fair use” rights and trade music illegally. Like I said earlier INTENT is the difference and to me it’s clear they intended to steal music.