The RIAA has apparently been getting a lot of negative publicity for its six-figure judgment
against a single mother for file-sharing. RIAA president Cary Sherman has a taken to the Web
to defend his organization's actions. Personally, I don't have a great deal of sympathy for Jammie Thomas given the strong evidence against her, but I did think Sherman made a couple of misleading arguments. First, Sherman claims that the lawsuits have "created a legal marketplace" for music. But the primary way you create a "legal marketplace" for your products is to offer better products.
The market is growing because services like Apple's iTunes make it convenient for consumers to get the music they want in a convenient and flexible format. But the major labels can hardly take credit for that, since they had to be dragged kicking and screaming
into signing on to the iTunes store. Sherman says he'd rather be "helping artists make great music that we can distribute in lots of exciting new ways that music fans want." But for the most part, their approach has been the opposite: doing their best to sue new music technologies out of existence and sharply limiting the ways consumers can listen to the music they want. Secondly, Sherman repeatedly equates copyright infringement with theft, going so far as to say that the jury found Thomas "liable for copyright theft." But of course there's no such thing as "copyright theft." As the Supreme Court
and others have pointed out, copyright infringement and theft are two different crimes, and it's misleading to treat them as if they were identical.