RIAA Claims File Sharers Are 'Undermining Humanitarian Efforts In Haiti', But Leaves Out The Facts

from the oh-please dept

Wow. The RIAA is getting seriously desperate these days. In the past, at least, its arguments made a little bit of sense, if you didn’t understand the details or have the data. But these days, they’re really reaching. We’ve already covered Mitch Bainwol’s bizarre attempt to link Chinese hackers breaking into Google with copyright law — despite the two being totally unconnected. And, now, the RIAA is claiming that P2P file sharers are “undermining” humanitarian efforts in Haiti. Now that’s quite a claim, and you would think the RIAA would have some evidence to back it up, but (of course), it doesn’t. It’s just making stuff up.

The claim is based on the fact that some musicians quickly put out a “Hope for Haiti Now” digital only album, with the proceeds going to help Haiti. It apparently did quite well, topping the Billboard sales charts. Considering there were tons of ways to donate to Haiti, this was basically a way to get some free music with your donation. Fair enough. But the RIAA noticed that the tracks also appeared on file sharing sites. This is hardly a surprise, nor is it meaningful. But, according to the RIAA’s interpretation, this somehow “undermines” humanitarian efforts:

The album is now widely available on illicit BitTorrent sites like The Pirate Bay, Torrentz and more. The posting highlights a truly ugly side of P2P piracy — the undermining of humanitarian fundraising efforts via online theft of the “Hope for Haiti Now” compilation. So much for the notion that illegal downloading (“sharing”) is an effort to help advance the plight of artists.

So much wrong in so few words. First of all, the album is “available” on the internet. The Pirate Bay, Torrentz and those other sites aren’t hosting the album at all. They may be pointing to it, but so is Google. Is that also an “illicit” site? It’s amusing, but the blog post the RIAA links to, in an effort to back up this claim, highlights how he found out about it being available via a Google search. But notice what the RIAA did here? Rather than focus on where the file actually is, it blames The Pirate Bay, even though their own source actually used Google to find it, and the files aren’t hosted by The Pirate Bay. That’s called being disingenuous, at best.

Next, how does this “undermine” anything? If someone wanted to donate to Haiti, there were countless ways to do so. If someone donated a bunch of money directly to the Red Cross, and then chose to get those songs via an unauthorized copy, is that really undermining humanitarian efforts? And for those who downloaded an unauthorized copy and didn’t donate anywhere, does anyone at the RIAA seriously believe they would have bought the album otherwise? I recognize that the RIAA thinks music powers everything, but no one bought the album because it was the best way to donate to Haiti.

And that last sentence is a total non sequitur. What does humanitarian aid have to do with advancing the plight of artists? And who said that file sharing was “an effort to help advance the plight of artists” in the first place? No one. The RIAA is just setting up bizarre totally unrelated strawmen to knock down.

But the much bigger issue is that the whole premise of the RIAA post appears to be wrong. It turns out that, while the albums are available via these unauthorized means, almost no one is downloading them. MusicAlly saw the RIAA’s blog post, and figured it would check in to see just how much downloading was going on to undermine those Haitian humanitarian efforts… and discovered that very, very, very few people are downloading the album. Considering the sales of the album topped the charts, a comparison was done between downloads of this album and Lady Gaga’s hit album, and they found that the charity album is barely noticeable:

<font=-1>Source: MusicAlly.com
In terms of specific numbers, MusicAlly explains:

At its peak on 24th January, Hope For Haiti Now was being downloaded 2,680 times a day according to BigChampagne — compare that to The Fame Monster’s 63,845 downloads the same day. Meanwhile, by 23rd February, Hope For Haiti Now’s daily downloads had dwindled to 820, compared to 47,971 for the Gaga album.

In other words, despite the claims of the RIAA, file sharers certainly weren’t “undermining” anything. They certainly weren’t particularly interested in downloading this album at all. Looks like the RIAA has been caught making up arguments that have no relation to fact, yet again.

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Comments on “RIAA Claims File Sharers Are 'Undermining Humanitarian Efforts In Haiti', But Leaves Out The Facts”

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MissingFrame says:

It's the strategy, not the facts.

If anything should have been learned over the past decade, it should be learned that if you repeat the same thing loudly over and over, people will believe it. Facts be damned. Yes it was true before the age of the internet and 1000 cable channels, but so much more effective now.

This is the RIAA strategy. Simply picking apart the logic doesn’t work, you have to find heartstrings to pull.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It's the strategy, not the facts.

The RIAA is playing a game called, who can come up with the most preposterous claims? I think my meteor shower doomsday scenario wins, lets see if the RIAA can top it.

But they do come in second place with this copyright preventing humanitarian efforts nonsense. Lets see if someone besides me can top that?

Anonymous Coward says:

“RIAA Claims File Sharers Are ‘Undermining Humanitarian Efforts In Haiti’,”

Wow. and file sharing will lead to the end of the world too, it will cause meteors to hit the earth.

See, when you file share, you spend fewer tax dollars which means less tax dollars that goes to NASA and other agencies that create new technology to stop meteors from hitting earth and hence planet earth will suffer.

zcat (profile) says:

It’s my opinion that these albums (they put one out for just about every natural disaster and cause) undermine humanitarian efforts and are a blatant attempt by the record industry to cash in and get some free publicity from various natural disasters. And I’ve though this for a very long time.

And finally here’s the proof. Clearly the album is such a stinker that nobody really wants it, even for free on p2p networks. It’s obvious that sales of this album are driven entirely by people wanting to help with Haiti relief.

So how much profit from the album actually goes to Haiti and how much gets swallowed up in the music industry’s grossly inflated ‘costs’?

wheatus (user link) says:


On one level, you’ve just got to sit back and marvel at what a true Oligarch is capable of. I mean, anything and everything, is fair game, without the least bit of concern for human dignity, let alone a sense of shame. David Attenborough needs to do a series on these cunts, where he sneaks up behind their press conferences & in a cold nervous sweat, with his hair all fucked up, whispers to us about the sheer awesome wonder and absolute heartlessness of our natural world.


Anonymous Coward says:


On one level, you’ve just got to sit back and marvel at what a true PIRATE is capable of. I mean, anything and everything, is fair game, without the least bit of concern for human dignity, let alone a sense of shame.

You’re welcome.

P.S. Charity proceeds want to be free.

wheatus (user link) says:


I seriously can’t tell what point you are trying to make. I think you are saying that pirates are bad, and since I never said they were good well…hmm.

Beyond that however, the “you’re welcome” part really gets me scrambled. Have you in your anonymity done some thing to help me? How could I know? Perhaps I do owe you thansk and praise?

On that note, when I post here on one of these issues, that I do indeed have a financial life or death stake in, I make sure to let people know who I am, as it helps to clarify my position.

You don’t….can you do the same as me or are you just, too scared to?


R. Miles (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“…they don’t live in the US.”
Which is ironic, given the RIAA enforces those region locks, so if one looks between the lines, RIAA’s harming the efforts of Haiti assistance far more than piracy ever could.

After all, billions of people can’t even donate, let alone download.

Way to go, RIAA, for undermining humanitarian efforts n Haiti with those region locks. Hypocrites.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

One of the regular idiocies of the entertainment industry is that they try to maintain regional control in a retail world where borders are increasingly irrelevant.

In the case of Amazon, it works like this: while Amazon are allowed to sell CDs to anybody anywhere, they cannot do the same for MP3s. Each country has to be licensed separately – so Amazon US cannot sell to the UK, it has to be sold through Amazon UK. There’s not a version released in your country? Tough, you’re not allowed to import it. There’s not an Amazon store in your country? Tough, you’re not allowed to buy.

Even with the “pirated” copies so low, I have to wonder how many of them came from people who were actually permitted to buy it in the first place by the labels (in the case of Amazon, currently 6 countries).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Well you see, without file-sharing networks, I wouldn’t be able to afford to play every Slipknot album back-to-back at ear-shredding decibel levels, causing great stress to my cat, who then fails to groom itself properly, leading to snarls and hairballs.

So there you go. File Sharing causes hairballs. Won’t somebody think of the kittens!

Alan Gerow (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

People download files from the Internet.

My cat has furballs.

Therefore, people downloading files from the Internet makes my cat have furballs.

Alternatively, the RIAA’s shallow and baseless complaints and accusations against file sharers makes my cat feel dirty and he cleans himself constantly to rid himself of the guilt-by-association of living on the same planet as the RIAA’s PR people & lawyers. This increase in cleaning has caused a built-up of fur in his stomach as the amount of daylight increases. Then, when he hears of the latest RIAA claim, he can’t help but vomit. Violently. All over the place.

I can’t blame him, really.

Just Another Moron in a Hurry (profile) says:

Re: You're Brains...

You see, the T-Virus was developed under patent by the Umbrella Corporation. When someone hacked into their mainframe, the documentation about the virus’ genetic makeup was leaked onto the file sharing site, The Pirate Bay. Millions of people downloaded the files, and grew copies of the virus in their own home-kitchen.

The Umbrella Corporation kept all of their T-Virus samples locked securely in an underground complex, where any accidental contamination could be contained and dealt with safely. However, the pirates who home-brewed their own zombie juice didn’t put such precautions in place, so when one of them got accidentally infected, there were no safety precautions in place, and the virus was released into the world at large, resulting in the Zombie Apocalypse.

Alan Gerow (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Your Brains...

It depends on the source of the problem, at least in my opinion:

If the person conceptually doesn’t understand the difference between “your” and “you’re”, then it’s a grammar mistake.

If the person understands the difference, but typed it incorrectly, then it’s a spelling error.

Just Another Moron in a Hurry (profile) says:

Re: My 3rd Grade Report Card sucked because of Piracy

The Logic: Even though file-sharing was not prevalent back then, the practice of recording and sharing Bootleg Cassette tapes was a growing trend.

One of my friends, Eric Rosenthal, brought his brand new Sony Walkman to school one day and let me listen to a Bootleg Metallica cassette. It was awesome!

Unfortunately, as I was listening, the gym teacher blew the whistle to start class, so I was rushing to take the headphones off and give the walkman back to Eric, when i got tangled up in the cord! I tripped, sprained my ankle, and was unable to participate in the class for almost a whole week! Given I wasn’t very athletic to begin with, this dropped my grade from a B- to a C+.

There is proof that Piracy caused me to get a crappy 3rd Grade Report Card!

FatGiant (profile) says:

Preposterous PR

Well known trick. This is pure PR in it’s most ugly form. But, it works.

Now, let’s see if we will ever find out what the actual numbers were? The value donated from this sales is exactly: ????

If, instead, those same tracks, and more, because there wouldn’t be a limitation on their numbers, were placed on a website, to be downloaded after you made a donation DIRECTLY to some REAL institution already on the field, with or without tiers, I would bet it would top that number.

If the artists intention was to donate the songs, in exchange for some publicity, it was acomplished, if the purppose was to increase the monetary help to the victims of that catastrophe, it would be done, if the purppose was to simply sell more shiny round plastic thingies, no, that no.

So, again I see a good opportunity wasted, again I see the OLD way of one way thinking working. And the culprit in all this are the file-sharers, who may probably be persons that have already donated to that cause, in one way or another.

OLD media thinks that since it is the center of it’s own universe, it is the center of everyone else’s too.

It will take time for that “Wall” to break. Until then, at their eyes and at the eyes of those subjected to their crude, but effective PR, all other options are “infringing”.

I hope to see their end during my lifetime, but most probably, will not.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Preposterous PR

You have clearly not kept pace with the latest in archaeology and palaeontology.

There is now incontrovertible evidence that record labels have existed since milli-micro-nano-seconds after the Big Bang

There are clearly passages referring to the intellectual property rights of those of us who record musical performances up to and including ownership of the musical performance and score contained in the Code of Hammurabi, Leviticus, Numbers and The Song of Solomon (soon to a major new release by the Black Eyed String Beans and an award winning motion picture guaranteed a 2011 Academy Award!).

It is our unchallengeable legal position that while the Word may have come first we of the MPAA/RIAA came Second and while we may need to present ourselves as being limited by the niceties of due process, presenting factual, truthful statements our barrister Judas L. Screwtape maintains that all visual and musical compositions ranging from cave paintings and drawings, to banging rocks together, to the most modern movie and electronic artistic efforts belongs to us even before they are created.

In short Sir, we created intellectual property and with the continued efforts of morally superior and pure apostles like Ronald J. Riley we are assured of success and ultimate victory.

In closing, Sir, please find enclosed a bill for damages for your and your ancestor’s piracy of our intellectual propery for the last 300 generations totally the past 5 years net profits of Microsoft.

You have 10 days to remit.

Overcast (profile) says:

Actually – now that I think of it. If I did download more music from torrent, I would likely buy more.

See – I don’t buy music I’ve never heard. How many liars are going to claim they have? Maybe.. on rare occasion or maybe if you are just a serious CD collector – unless it’s a group you like of course; now I’ve done that on occasion.

But the *vast* majority of music CD’s that I own, I heard the music somewhere for ‘free’ first. Be it in a club, on the radio, in a movie I watched, at a friend’s place, etc, etc.

Out of all the CD’s and DVD’s I own – less than 2% I bought without seeing first.

So.. by keeping free music down – in fact the RIAA is hampering these same efforts.

I’d be willing to bet anyone $1000.00 that if I had the time and ability to listen to a plethora of free music, I would walk away with a number of bands I had never heard of that I would like and buy their music.

“E Nomine” is a *perfect* example.

I bet maybe 20% outside of Germany have heard of them, I never had until I had heard it on the web – for free – and after that, I went and bought a couple of their CD’s – which are in pristine shape at home, as I instantly ripped them to MP3.

Guy at work mentioned a couple of cool bands to me the other day – I’m sure they are, I forgot the names already – but if I had actually heard it – it might have peaked my interest a lot more. But just mentioning the name – well, *yawn*

Fin says:

Private trackers are donating to Haiti

I saw the youtube clip and decided it was such shit I was not even going to waste bandwidth downloading at TPB. I had previously donated to Haiti. Direct. No MAFFIA middle-man.

TehConnection and Waffles (private torrent trackers for those living in a cage) ran fundraising campaigns for Haiti. Yes sir! My fellow pirates donating while illegally downloading. Sweet!

DJGamer says:

It’s funny, at first I thought this was REALLY silly because I thought it was about Music For Relief (musicforrelief.org), which offers a album with much better artists involved (Slash, Weezer, The Crystal Method, Alanis Morisette, Dave Mathew Band, Linkin Park, Hoobastank, The All-American Rejects and some others [Note I don’t personally like all of them but they’re the names I recognize]) for FREE and the donation part is optional but of course highly recommended. With something like that you can a bit more sure that the money IS going entirely to charity.

It’s a much better model I think. For one you can choose how much you donate rather than just having a fixed price for the album-you can even download it for free if you want, but only if you’re near-broke most of the time like me. :p

DJGamer says:

Re: Re:

Forgot what else I was going to say-

I obviously thought this was silly because it would’ve been weird for the RIAA to get upset over people pirating stuff you can download officially for free anyway (although I wouldn’t put it past them to do so). I’d say the Music For Relief album is much more rock-oriented whereas Hope for Haiti is more pop-music/hip hop. Also, while Hope For Haiti Now seems to be more or less a quickly thrown-together compilation of already published songs, Music For Relief features entirely UNRELEASED music. It’s all-around a much better deal.

john s. (profile) says:

did I download illegally or not?

As a college student (albeit graduate student) I felt my donation of $300 entitled me to the album so I downloaded it illegally. The funny thing was the album I downloaded had the old RIAA antics of shrill and piercing noises after 20 seconds.

One could say I now feel burned and next time would only donate $290 and keep $10 to download the music. Therefore because of the RIAA Haiti would indeed be getting less money because of the RIAA.

So the question for me now comes up of, “Why is the RIAA even in the same mention of Haiti relief?”


Mr. Logic says:

Logic indicates more money for Haiti if no purchase of the single is made and the entire purchase price is donated to a relief effort, thereby cutting out the middle-man. If people eventually keep cutting out the middle-man, the RIAA member companies will have no reason to exist.

One also must ponder why they warmed over an existing song from Generation X rather than hiring a talented young songwriter to write a new song for the new generation.

John85851 (profile) says:

Where does the money go?

Some other posters may have brought this up, but where does the money go? If I buy the CD for $20, how much goes to the relief effort and how much is kept by everyone in the supply chain: for example, $5 for Amazon, $5 for the RIAA, $2 for packaging, $2 for distribution, $1.50 for the artists, and so on.

I’ll admit that I don’t know what percent of each sale is going towards the relief effort, but if I give $20 directly to the Red Cross, isn’t that 100% of my donation? Okay, sure, I don’t get a CD, but isn’t helping Haiti more important than buying (or selling) a CD?

omfg says:

RIAA are stupid

I donated $500 dollars towards 2004 Phuket tsunami, and I can’t afford to donate every time a natural disaster comes along, let alone purchase a song that is supposedly dedicated to the victims, yet the money is normally pocketed by the big bosses and CEO’s themselves.

If they want somebody to blame, they should blame themselves for being so stupid in thinking that just because they release a shitty sounding slow song, that they are helping in any way towards the relief effort other than to siphon money out of brainwashed consumers. Do yourselves a favour RIAA, donate $10 dollars yourselves and screw the song, noone wants to listen to it anyway.

Anonymous Coward says:

TPB and other trackers facilitate the direct sources (seeds) of illegal content, and do so knowingly and willingly. Google and other search engines do not. So, yes, there is a big difference between a search engine and a tracker.

Your conclusion that pirates wouldn’t have bought the album anyway is not anything close to fact, it’s sheer opinion. The same as the RIAA saying those same pirates WOULD have bought the album if they couldn’t pirate it so easily.

Are they being dramatic about this? Sure. Are you really surprised? You shouldn’t be. Pirating is still pirating, comparing it to the most popular pirated album might make you as a thief feel better about justifying it, but I don’t blame the RIAA for wanting to point out that “Hey, you know how we always whine that pirating costs studios money? Now it could be costing a relief effort money too.” And as much as you don’t want to believe that to be true, sorry, it just is.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

and it very well might be that money going to the RIAA could go to relief efforts instead, hence by pirating music I spend less money on the RIAA and more money on relief efforts. As much as you don’t want to believe that to be true, sorry, it just is. It could very well be true.

I mean, the world could come to an end due to piracy, yes, we know, because piracy can make us pay fewer taxes which means less money going into meteor interception systems. Yes, it’s true, I mean, I can make anything up that I want that could be potentially true and you can’t blame me, I am somehow justified.

“Pirating is still pirating, comparing it to the most popular pirated album might make you as a thief feel better about justifying it”

No, pirating does not make one a thief just because you choose to lie and claim it so. You know that telling lies makes you a liar right?

“but I don’t blame the RIAA for wanting to point out that “Hey, you know how we always whine that pirating costs studios money? Now it could be costing a relief effort money too.”

and I don’t blame people who claim that invisible magic fairies cause us to exist.

and in what position is the RIAA to make such a claim? Why isn’t any other organization, without such a conflict of interest, making such a claim. Why is it that the only organization that’s making such a claim an organization that has a conflict of interest in the matter?

Yes I do blame the RIAA for trying to use a disaster to make baseless claims to further their own self interest with no intent on alleviating the disaster. If the RIAA really cares about this disaster let me ask you, how much did they donate?

You know that song by the Afroman, because I got high. We ought to come up with a version of it, because I shared files. “I was going to clean my cat but then I shared files.” Maybe someone else can finish it or come up with something better.

riboff says:

"help advance the plight of artists"

likes of RIAA are the reasons of all troubles mankind is exposed to all over this could-be paradise of a planet we live in.

remembering the artists they have made sign contracts through which they haven’t seen a penny of their work, or have been deemed worthy of a ridiculous percentage.

these are real ruthless androids that can do anything. they can come up with words like “plight of the artists” to you.

Amused To Death says:

What idiots

This is on the same level as Pat Robertson claiming “God is angry with Haiti and that is why He sent that earthquake to destroy it”.

The RIAA likes to sue people, or otherwise extort huge sums of money from them, or from corporate entities, but will not pass any of that revenue along to the artists signed to the record labels who the RIAA claims to represent.

The RIAA are a MAFIA FRONT COMPANY, and should be PROSECUTED for RACKETEERING, EXTORTION, and other crimes under the RICO act.

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