Why the RIAA will lose in Court

The RIAA will soon have it’s day in court when it has to defend itself against an outraged public.

Throughout history, major steps in the progress of nations have come about through landmark court cases. Whether we take the Dreyfus’s case in France, or the slew of court decisions in the United States in the 60s to end racial prejudice, we see that when public opinion reaches a boiling point, then the law itself changes in a rational way to accommodate the new sense of right and wrong.

The courts have always been at the forefront of detecting new ideas, concepts, and understandings of fundamental freedoms. With the advent of the Internet, a flood of new problems relating to data protection, communication, and privacy have come up, and one by one, the courts are having to decide the status of each one. For example, the recent decision on whether or not linking to a defamatory website is itself defamation decisively defends the freedom of a person to give their own views and cite another’s opinion.

Image Credit: sandrino

RIAA and Filesharing

One such landmark case is on the horizon, and the end is predictable. The legality of p2p file sharing will soon be decided. And I’m willing to stick out my scrawny neck and say that p2p file sharing will have the stamp of legality. And with no restrictions. No patrolling, and no traffic shaping.

Why am I so sure? Because it makes sense. Even if the courts do not immediately agree to it, they will sooner or later. Because that is what history has shown us. The EU has already struck down France’s Three Strikes Proposal.

The RIAA is right to be worried. People often feel that CD’s are overpriced and that the Recording lables charge too much for each song. This is true. However, they are forced to do so. Recording Labels take huge risks when they support any new artist by publicizing them and promoting their albums. Most of these artists will be failures. To compensate for this, the labels simply have to charge high rates for songs that do succeed. Of course, this means that successful artists can holdup the lables and demand higher rates. To mitigate this, the labels bind their artists to them with contracts that prevent them from running off.

The RIAA does have some valid reason to feel that the p2p file sharing of mp3s is hurting them. No doubt there is some loss there, but not to the extent that it publicly cries out. We’ve already discussed earlier on how software piracy is not really theft.

The point however, is that the RIAA needs to recoup their losses that arise from supporting poorly performing artists by charging exorbitant prices from the public for the songs of the successful ones. This is the main reason for file sharing. Apple has shown using itunes that people can and do pay for songs and software if it is reasonably priced. Perhaps a day is coming when artists can bypass the recording labels and sell their songs directly to the public at a much lower price. This is obviously something that the labels are scared of since it undercuts their entire raison d’ĂȘtre.

The reason that file sharing will be legalized is simple. At the end of the day, you simply cannot place a restriction on what people do in the privacy of their homes without causing damage to anyone. Opportunity Costs don’t count as damage, unfortunately for the RIAA. If legislation dictating what people can and cannot do in the privacy of their homes is ever enforced, it will result in the creation of a police like atmosphere that will give people the feeling that they are being watched. And that is something that cannot be tolerated for long.

It’s obvious that the RIAA doesn’t understand this. That is why they are claiming that even ripping legally puchased CD’s is illegal! (See the first paragraph in the second heading). They are frustrated and clutching at straws, desperately trying to retain some authority when the very rules of the game have changed. It’s only a matter of time before they lost big time in court, and will have to accept the new environment as it is. Wait for that day. The US would have progressed once more.

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