RIAA Flubs Chance To Actually Respond To Questions About CD Ripping
from the nice-work,-guys dept
For years, we’ve been a fairly persistent critic of the RIAA’s tactics. It’s not, as some incorrectly suggest, because we are “anti-RIAA” or that we somehow dislike the RIAA. Not at all. We simply believe their policies are incredibly damaging. First, they’re damaging to fans of music who are suddenly treated like criminals just for wanting to listen to music. Second, they’re damaging to musicians, who are being lied to about what business models make sense in a digital world. Most importantly, they’re damaging to the very labels that the RIAA represents — and the fact that the RIAA’s continued strategy has resulted in increasing troubles for the major labels it represents as well as major acts defecting left and right at a time when the rest of the industry is thriving, seems to bear that out. In fact, I always find it amusing that providing the RIAA with accurate and useful advice about why its strategy is damaging and even providing alternative strategies could possibly be seen as being “anti-RIAA.” It’s not. It’s anti-“dumb policies” — policies that hurt everyone, including the record labels. For years, we’ve been ridiculously optimistic that one day, maybe (just maybe!) the powers that be at the RIAA would wake up, realize what a huge mistake they’ve been making, and start focusing not on treating fans like criminals, not on sneaking around Washington DC to mislead politicians into passing unnecessary and dangerous laws, but on new business models that actually make everyone better off.
That’s why it shouldn’t be surprising (or “ironic”) that we pointed out where the Washington Post and others were wrong in describing a particular lawsuit filed by a record label against Jeffrey Howell. It does no one any good to fight that battle until it’s actually necessary. In fact, by saying the RIAA is saying something they have not, it only gives the RIAA more ammo to suggest that those of us who are legitimately critiquing their policies are simply “making stuff up.”
So, while I disagree with folks saying that it’s impossible to unfairly malign the RIAA, it is rather telling (as pointed out at that same link) to look at how the RIAA has responded to this debate. If they were smart and had any strategic PR sense at all (I know, I know, stop laughing…), someone at the RIAA should have come out quickly and made a clear statement saying: “Ripping CDs for personal use is, and always has been, perfectly legal. We will not, and have not, sued anyone who does that.” It’s an easy, proactive statement that the RIAA could make. It wouldn’t be conceding anything, as it’s a factual statement based on the law. Instead, the RIAA has remained mostly quiet or made more careful statements, rather than just coming out and saying: “Yes, you can rip your CDs for personal use.” And, for that, the RIAA should absolutely be maligned — not because of any hatred or anti-RIAA sentiment — but because it’s just dumb and self-defeating.