RIAA wants to rewrite the DMCA: No!

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/44/Image_removed_DMCA.pngWhen Congress passed the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998, it was an unmitigated hand-out to the recording industry. Now the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) wants to revisit the debate to litigate the “tech industry” this time. Ironically, the tech industry was in its infancy at the passage of the DMCA: Google was founded in 1998, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Spotify, and SoundCloud were not even imagined at the time.

In a recent tweet, the RIAA announced:

Well it is absolutely time to “fix” the DMCA, if by fix they mean eliminate. When the DMCA passed into law, only copyright stakeholders were included at the copyright negotiating table. Stakeholders, by definition, had to be around in order to be at the table. None of the tech companies they currently attack were around when they negotiated the DMCA in the mid 90s.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f0/DRM_Is_Killing_Music.svg/190px-DRM_Is_Killing_Music.svg.pngThe DMCA gives record companies the ability to include Digital Rights Management (DRM) in digital music files. DRM are files that track where a file has been.While the DMCA does not mandate DRM, it does make it illegal to circumvent DRM. And DRM does all kinds of messed up things to users’ privacy: from knowing where a file circulates to acquiring information about the users.

Furthermore, the idea that the RIAA has the interest of “music creators” is entirely disingenuous. Record labels exploit musicians. When an artist signs a record contract, they receive an advance on future revenue. They have to pay back the advance from their portion of the royalties. Record labels begin to profit long before artists see any money, and most signed artists see no money.

The RIAA is a lobbying group that works for major record labels. By characterizing themselves as representatives of music creators, they do more than just rhetorical harm. The problem is that the public, and Congress, wants to believe that the RIAA has their favorite artists interests in mind. However, as I’ve argued, this gives them the leverage to strengthen their position in the music economy, and further exploit those same artists.

In the early 2000s, teenagers downloading music were the RIAA’s bad guys. Today they want you to believe that the “tech industry” companies are the bad guys. This is what I call the “Piracy Panic Narrative.” We can’t be fooled into allowing Congress to make wholesale changes to copyright law again to advance the interests of a corporate oligopoly.

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How record companies induce panic about music piracy to increase their profits and exploit artists

vp-bogeymanFrom UTA Inquiry, Fall 2015:

On May 2, 2000, Lars Ulrich, drummer for the band Metallica, announced that his group was suing Napster, a free file-sharing service that let fans download music online. During the press conference outside Napster’s headquarters, Ulrich presented the company with a giant stack of papers listing the names of 300,000 Napster users. His assertion: Napster was enabling these people to steal music. Continue reading

Grammy Alliance: Another Round of Piracy Panic Narrative

video blockedAfter 3 hours of music and a much needed public service announcement on domestic violence, the Recording Academy decided to end the show with a selfish lobbying effort to create tougher copyright laws. By starting the Creators’ Alliance (dubbed #GrammyAlliance for Twitter), the Recording Academy placed itself strongly on the side of major record labels against the recording artists who constitute the bulk of the Recording Academy members. Continue reading

Major Record Labels See Growth . . . But still say sales are in decline

As more data is released from 2014, we can see that major record labels celebrated a year of indisputable growth. Yet, they continue to include language that makes it sound as if the industry shrank.

“While the U.S. music industry suffered through its worst sales year since the advent of SoundScan (now Nielsen Music) in 1991, streaming was so strong last year that the industry nevertheless saw growth — yes, growth — in 2014, when new metrics to measure music revenue are taken into consideration.” Continue reading

A Taylor’d Piracy Panic Narrative

cibo00_Cassette_Jolly_Roger_(Rouge)I’ve been writing about what I call the piracy panic narrative for a while. The piracy panic narrative goes that file-sharing is piracy, piracy is stealing, and this stealing hurts recording artists. In this simplistic view of the recording industry (constructed by the major record labels), we are bringing about the death of music by file-sharing, ripping CDs, and streaming music. The main problem with this argument being that piracy is not stealing and these activities are not “piracy,” in the first place. However, the recording industry repeatedly makes these claims beginning with Metallica in 2000.
Now Taylor Swift has gotten into the discussion. She states “Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for.” Continue reading