PC Mag Responds To Legacy Recording Industry's 'Complaint' Letter

from the hello,-we're-the-press dept

We recently wrote about a bizarre and mis-targeted complaint letter sent by the bosses of pretty much every old school legacy music industry lobbying/trade group, officially sent to Ziff Davis to complain about two articles concerning Limewire alternatives, suggesting that the articles were promoting unauthorized copyright infringement. Of course, as we noted, these old school recording industry bosses were so upset, they failed to notice that one of the articles in question wasn’t even published by PC Mag (the target of the letter), but by PC World, a competing publication put out by an entirely different company, IDG.

Apparently, in their haste to send a complaint to the wrong publisher, these geniuses of the recording industry also failed to leave an address for a reply letter, so PC Mag’s Lance Ulanoff responded with a public response letter, which basically tells all of those organizations to learn what it means to be the press reporting on a topic, as opposed to an advocate pushing a particular viewpoint:

The story isn’t encouraging or discouraging anything. That’s not our role. PCMag’s job is to cover all aspects of technology, which includes the products, services and activities that some groups and individuals might deem objectionable. We covered these Limewire alternatives because we knew they would be of interest to our readers. We understand that some might use them to illegally download content. We cannot encourage that action, but also cannot stop it. Reporting on the existence of these services does neither.

We have, obviously, written about many online and offline services, including some that these groups might consider legitimate or “legal.” However, the fact is that some users store and manage illegally gained content in music applications like iTunes. We would not stop covering these utilities simply because some users place illegal or even inappropriate content in them.

More importantly, Ulanoff points out the same thing we did in questioning what the hell these industry groups thought they would accomplish in suggesting the press not cover a story:

It worries me that the music industry took this action, because it reeks of desperation. The RIAA and other music industry organizations have spent the better part of the decade fighting the digital transition, with only a shrinking business to show for it. In recent years, though, the fist of anger has turned into at least one open hand as the music industry embraces the once shunned digital music industry. Unfortunately, that warm embrace, and the change that comes with it, are not happening fast enough. Clearly the music industry is still losing money to music piracy and even the recalibrated profit margins brought on by legal music sharing services.

It’s time for these music execs to pull their collective heads out of the sand and fully acknowledge and accept all the ways their industry has changed. They also have to understand that nothing will stop technology’s inexorable march forward. Things will continue to change. Music downloads and sharing will never go away. These execs have to find a way to use all that technology allows and make a business that rivals the good old days of vinyl, cassette tape and even CDs.

We will continue to cover it all–as we must.

Not a particularly surprising response, but kudos to PC Mag for sticking to its principles, and not feeling bullied by these industry folks.

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Companies: limewire, riaa, ziff davis

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Comments on “PC Mag Responds To Legacy Recording Industry's 'Complaint' Letter”

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94 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

As usual, no alternative is presented to them. Just another variation on “you need to find a new business model”.

A business can’t compete in a market if there is rampant illegal activity skewing that market.

It is obvious to everyone on both sides of the issue that there isn’t “another business model”. That’s why enforcement will be the avenue that is exercised.

If the pirates don’t like that option, they’re free to provide a valid alternative business model for the labels.

No surprise that hasn’t happened yet.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

So, you claim that the recording industry suing the crap out of these people is a good way to get them to buy CDs? I don’t know about you, but if I (or a friend or family member) got sued by someone, I would never ever do business with them again. Would you do business with a company that screwed you for life?

Examples of alternative business models have been posted here plus examples of big and small names successfully using them. It takes imagination, something you obviously don’t have. Just don’t go into marketing and you’ll be fine.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

You are, of course, ignoring the ripple effects of illegal downloads. Pirated music is easier to obtain and easier to share, thus providing artists greater exposure. That exposure can then be harnessed by the artists to sell things that the pirates want to buy, such as seats at a concert or limited edition merchandise. I think we’ve presented this “alternative business model” repeatedly on TechDirt, but you folks seem determined to ignore us.

Michael says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Actually, the artists make very little from the sales of the albums, and the RIAA middlemen work very hard to keep as much of that money from the artists as possible. Artists make more money touring… and who is it that pays for concert tickets? Oh, its those folks that downloaded their music from the internet. So who is it that is hurting the artists? The internet made the middlemen unnecessary… they are just clinging to their money as tightly as they can.

JEDIDIAH says:

Re: Re: Re: The RIAA reality distortion field.

> Artists make money from selling their recorded music
> when people don’t rip it off instead.
>
> Saying otherwise reeks of willful ignorance.

No. What reeks of willfull ignorance is this pollyanna attitude you have that eliminating piracy will increase sales.

The demand for a zero price product cannot in any reasonable way be compared to demand for the same product at a non-zero price. This is why even Pirates and Crackers have always made the distinction between commercial and non-commercial piracy and view bootleggers in much the same way that the labels do.

Musicians have to compete with everything else in the market that wants the consumer’s buck. Those consumer dollars are finite. Magical pixie dust will not magically make consumers any richer or any more able to pay for your particular product.

You have to compete with $5 DVD movies, Wii Games and other legal leisure activities that are completely free. (time is also finite)

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

i invite you to browse techdirt’s archives for a large number of success stories with regards to just that. for the musicians. you know, the people these organisations supposedly represent and rip off on a regular basis?

the fact is that the middle man of the recording ‘industry’ is basically hosed unless they realise that their job is not selling shiny plastic disks, or even music, really. it’s facilitating the Musicians ability to make money off their work. something this so called industry hasn’t done in a Long time. (well, the larger and loud parts of it).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Using random examples of nefarious activity by record labels to paint the entire industry with a broad brush is a failed, and stale logical fallacy.

I’m familiar with the largely unknown artists this blog tries to use in their drop-in-the-ocean examples.

Except they’re all just using variations on the age-old “promotional gimmick” marketing angle.

harbingerofdoom (profile) says:

Re: Re:

ya know…

i find it interesting that anyone would say anything such as “as usual no alternative is provided”.

it is not anyone elses job to provide alternatives to major corporations in order for them to stay relevant. its up to themselves to figure out how to market a product im willing to pay money for.

If RIAA,MPAA et al. dont like that option they are free to just close shop and go away. as much as this may shock you, their disappearance would in no way mean the end of music. for proof i present thousands of years of history prior to their existence and the concept of copyright.

Eldakka (profile) says:

Re: Re:

As usual, no alternative is presented to them. Just another variation on “you need to find a new business model”.

As the magazine is not a part of the recording industry, why should it know, or even care about, different strategies for the recording industry?

It doesn’t take a naval architect or engineer to be standing on the Titanic and say “the ships sinking, do something about it”. However it does take an engineer/other experienced naval personnel to work out how to fix it and to implement the fix. It is not the passenger’s job, responsibility or duty to know how to fix the leak. But it’s pretty obvious to any layman that there IS a leak.

So with the recording industry. While it’s pretty obvious to everyone that it’s broken and they need to do something to fix it, why should anyone except those IN the recording industry care enough to provide suggestions on how to fix it? Who outside the recording industry gives a damn? Especially when ideas are presented and get labeled immediately as ‘unworkable’ without even trying. When the ship is sinking don’t form a committee to explore the possibilities of beginning an investigation into how to fix it, start working away. Try lots of things until something works or you sink.

Don’t keep pretending the problem doesn’t exist or that you fix the problem by forcing water to change it’s behavior by ordering it not to pour into the hole!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You obviously is not a fan of Madonna, she makes millions from merch and live gigs why can’t you?

The only business that can’t compete in a market is trying to sell something nobody is using, when was the last time you bought a discman?

If labels don’t like that model I’m sorry, that is why Jamendo is great and EMI is chapter 11.

Have you noticed the trend? The more draconian things get the more open alternatives comes out of that place. Jamendo is French, Netsukuku and Osiris SP are both Italian, Winny is Japanese(Japan have some of the most hardline IP laws in the world really hardcore), sure you can see the trend and what that means. Innovate or die!

In your case it may be death or the soup line.

grumpy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So let me get this straight. To be allowed to comment on a business one has to first think of an alternative business model, otherwise the criticism is invalid. OK. Nice. I think I smell a patsy…

This might’ve worked in the Soviet Union but a market is without mercy. Succeed with your business model or die. Can’t think of anything new? Sorry, off to the compost heap with you. Not many buggy whip manufacturers left in the world these days…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

As usual, no alternative is presented to them. Just another variation on “you need to find a new business model”.

Why should PC Mag, Techdirt, or anyone else for that matter, present an alternative business model to anyone?

Your comment pretty much sums up the whole attitude the music industry has – someone else do all the work for me so I can make free money.

Too bad, those days are over. Get used to it.

Free Capitalist (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

bonus layer of silly: Techdirt at least Has presented alternatives.

Giving “them” what they ask for nets the same result as criticism: some chump comes in here holding their hands on their ears singing “LA LA LA LA LA LA LA” as loud as their little girl lungs can possibly support. This pretty much mirrors their leadership’s ongoing response to the collapse of their business model, so on that weak premise I would argue Techdirt write-ups get the most executive responses in the comments of any site on the Net.

martyburns (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You miss the point in this whole piracy thing – people are pirating because they don’t think the music is worth buying. When this is the case, the music is worthless. There is no money missed out on anywhere.

The music industry needs to figure out what people are willing to pay for at a price they are happy with and then address that market.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

> A business can’t compete in a market if there is rampant illegal activity skewing that market.
> If the pirates don’t like that option, they’re free to provide a valid alternative business model for the labels.

What abject corporate whining.

The role of business is to give people what they want. Work to come up with new ideas, and be rewarded with profits in return. And continually changing circumstance keeps the whole market rolling.

If anyone is not up to that, if they are not up to running a business, they should get out of business. You don’t go whining for some kind of socialism for corporations, wanting to be spoon-fed their business model and spoon-fed their profits.

Everyone, right now, should be copying and sharing whatever they want as much as they want, and helping kill off these fat stagnant companies as soon as possible.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

If anyone is not up to that, if they are not up to running a business, they should get out of business. You don’t go whining for some kind of socialism for corporations, wanting to be spoon-fed their business model and spoon-fed their profits.

Hey, it worked for the banking and automotive industries.

I totally agree with you, but in this day and age, with “companies too big to fail,” it seems like government is there to make businesses profitable, even when they are stupid about it (case-in-point: AIG.)

Anonymous Coward says:

It isn’t obvious to people on both sides (whichever sides you’re talking about). Many artists have been successful exploring different business models. These business models may not be the type that support the **AAs, but that does not mean they aren’t successful.

Artists connecting directly with fans seems to be the future.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

There isn’t anything new about “connecting with fans”.

Promotion, merch, meet and greets, etc., and all variations thereof, have been around forever.

The fact that no new model has appeared says everything that needs to be said about why the current model works fine- when market forces aren’t skewed by illegal activity.

The clampdown on piracy isn’t going to go away. In fact, it’s just beginning.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

or perhaps it could just be that these old things work fine, and that there was a ridiculous bubble that allowed the last little while’s silliness in the industry, which has come to an end?

monopoly controls mask other natural market tendencies. copyright is a monopoly. the ‘illegal activity’ is the result of the internet treating a monopoly on information as censorship, assessing censorship as damage, and routing around it. the illegal activity here isn’t skewing the market. the LAWS are skewing the market and reality, and thus the market, is neatly routing around it.

the technology no longer permits the ridiculousness of the ‘old’ model (which is crazy ‘new’ when compared to the history of Music.) it is, in fact, encouraging a return to older models, where musicians didn’t become millionaires by winning the label lottery, but instead made a (fairly basic) living if they were any good, and a good one if they had other skills to combine with their artistic ability.

so, large corporations who serve little purpose but to screw all parties to pay disinterested and short term profit mad shareholders and executives fall by the wayside. so what? the skills of pretty much every worker other than the musicians themselves in that system carry over to other industries fairly well, and the Musicians are only getting screwed if they follow the label pattern of bitching and suing rather than looking at how they make their money and adapting.

Michael says:

Re: Re: Re:

The clampdown has been going on for some time now with no success. There really is no way without shutting down the internet entirely (bye bye economy) and its actually not very hard to share music safely. The war against sharing on the internet goes directly against its purpose and will not be won. We’ll see these lawsuits decline as the industries that promote them run out of money. Lawyers won’t work for free.

Sun (profile) says:

Internet has made the transaction process extremely efficient. Record industry is no longer relevant for music creation, music promotion, nor music distribution. If you look at how prices have dropped on commodities due to the china effect, music is just the same. Kanye west is $3.99 on amazon. That’s the future. Let the riaa die, they don’t want to change.

misterdoug (profile) says:

Catchy name!

From now on I’m going to call it, “the legacy recording industry.” Those guys have been playing with words for a long time, for example redefining rights as property, as if by pirating the word “property” they can inherit the cultural context that belongs to genuine property. They could use a dose of their own medicine.

mike allen (profile) says:

The two magazines were not the only ones to do this. but it is not a very known fact that at the FM station I work for is a full recording studio, A number of local artists use, talking to most of them they want nothing to do with record lables, PRS etc etc. the artists / bands know that for the artist the lables and collection agencies are the real ripoff merchants. I know at least ten bands who come in record a track the first thing they do is to take a copy then share it to limewire. correction did. the second is to place it on all CC sites. Several bands now shun the lables because of their history in ripping off the artist. So yes they can die for them.

Glenn Davey says:

Wilful pirate who cannot be stopped, ever

As long as there is high-speed internet, USB sticks, mp3s and the myriad other music formats… all it takes is for one person to buy the music, and the digital copies take on a life of their own. You cannot fight the borg! Muahaha. Having said that, artists can’t make so much money, and especially the starving ones who make the best music.

So instead we’ll have mostly already-rich people making sub-par “popular” music and expanding their fortunes, while the tortured souls who would usually be serenading us with their art are off working at car-washes and gas stations. As a music lover that bothers me, but as a tech fiend I’m gunna pirate no matter HOW you try and stop me. I will buy WHAT I WANT TO BUY…

Gone are the days when I’ll spend money on an album full of garbage when I just liked the one song.

Anonymous: sign better artists, and send them on the road more. More gigs will be your cash-flow. But you will not beat piracy in the ways you THINK you can… I guarantee you, in 5 or 10 years when piracy is still commonplace and music is still free you’ll look back and remember me saying this.

Glenn Davey says:

One more thing

I think more people making their own music will soon be able to “monetize” (to borrow an awful capitalist word) their creations online, and more obscure artists will rise up online charts and generate quite a bit of cash-flow.

This will result in more varied music by more artists, with the music-buying public’s money being spread across a larger group. There will be less REALLY, REALLY profitable artists as record companies struggle to turn their over-produced, over-hyped up-and-comers into cash cows like they used to.

No-one should be making millions from popular music. The music should be spread around to the other really good artists who, at the moment, are drowned out by the crap that kids are told they should like.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Music labels have their product ILLEGALLY taken without payment. That’s not free market forces at work, that’s crime. For which enforcement is finally catching up. Much to your dismay, I might add.”

Well that is a falacy too, since music labels are facing many LEGAL alternative like Jamendo, Magnatune do you think I download music illegally?

Furthermore trying to sell CD’s on the MP3 era is just dumb, besides people can listen to music for free on the radio is that illegal too?

Besides who would by anything from people who call them thieves?

A YouTube celebrity can make 6 figures and they give it all for free, why can’t you?

ps: YouTube celebrity is code for abuscure person that have somehow managed to get thousands of people viewing them.

The movie industry might be larger, but the music industry has been hemorrhaging jobs and sales for 10 years (despite your futile efforts to lobby otherwise).

Yay! victory is ours!
I hope every last one of you types end up looking for a new career, you are not fit for the new age, new blood is coming and they don’t depend on the old tricks to make money.

At any rate, that still doesn’t excuse illegal behavior. To moral people, at least.

Illegal is relative, you know.
The law says it may be or not illegal is not defined yet, but common sense says different.

What could be possible illegal in listening to music? People are not downloading every music under the sun to keep them, they don’t have the storage capability to do so, not yet and if it gets bigger they wouldn’t even know they have the song, they probably need to download it again, but to some EVERY possible use must be controlled, that is wrong and you will feel the pain for trying to do so.

Models based in the age old concept of promotion.

Still doesn’t excuse taking something without paying for it.

Gee, you say like listenning to radio? people take the music and don’t pay is that imoral too?

Judging by your reaction to the enforcing of commerce and copyright laws that is starting to flood the internet, I’m gonna say you need to talk to the mirror on that one.

That is funny because you need to talk to the hand.

Anonymous Coward says:

Speaking as an unabashed pirate, I am a recent convert to paying for netflix. Mike is constantly saying paid can compete with free and I never believed it until my netflix free trial. I could and still can get anything digital I want for free, but I will gladly pay the cost for netflix because the service and quality of content is such that it beats the illegal means I’m used to. I’m really glad I can support the content creators again at a price level that is comfortable with me and my lame income. the netflix business model is the future for music as well, and I hope they’re the ones to take that step before all others

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“the netflix business model is the future for music as well”
Apart from that i agree with you.
I will without hesitation pay for a service like netflix, when it comes to music thought i am far from convinced that streaming is the be-all-end-all solution, with music i want the actual file so that i can play it on whatever device i own that can play music, including my car stereo.

BigKeithO (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Netflix is big about getting on as many devices as possible. What is stopping someone (a music label even) from creating a Netflix like service that streams a searchable catalog to any device? All of the Apple-heads can get an “app” on their iDevice, everyone else can use the web, car stereo’s could stream via a wifi connection of some sort.

Sounds like you just came up with a good idea for a business.

Tri-PleX says:

There are SOME artists that figured it out years ago

Look at KISS. The album sales were/are a miniscule part of their music empire. They learned thirty years ago that the record indistry minions had their hands in the vinyl/8-track/casette/CD cookie jar so deep they’d never see even crumbs, but the merch – the shirts, makeup, comics printed in their own blood, and the trademark on their images – and the tours that are so cookie-cutter rehearsed that you could go see a live concert tomorrow and see the exact show and the exact moves rehearsed to a millisecond from an KISS Alive DVD from 10 years ago is what keep fans STILL opening their wallets for these guys.
It’s not Gene’s reality show that is selling KISS albums today – the musuc may be the hook that brings them in the door but it is the legend (the marketing) that makes them want to buy a piece of the legend.

Music (like weed, maybe?) is innitially traded between friends for free, just to spread the word of something new and interesting. If it’s good, then the new party will look into purchasing (or obtaining thorugh other means) other works by the artist.
Like it or not, trading (borrowing, dubing, ripping, TORing…pick the tech of the day) is an integral part of the music industry. It’s how I first learned of almost every artist whose works I now own. Not radio, MTV, or some crazy new website, but FRIENDS that are the best marketing.

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