Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick




The EFF vs. The RIAA

from the epic-battles dept

USA Today is running a profile of the Electronic Frontier Foundation comparing them to the RIAA. It points out, at the beginning, that the RIAA's new Chairman will get a $1 million salary, which is half the entire annual budget of the EFF. While the article quotes a top lawyer at Verizon (who battled the RIAA against revealing subscriber names) saying that she was surprised at how sharp the EFF folks were, it also quotes a (non-RIAA, but still industry backed) lobbyist saying simply, "The EFF's basic stance on most issues is plain wrong." His reasoning for this is that he's too uncreative to come up with other ways for the music industry to make money. Why is it that people who are so uncreative assume that obsolete business models need to be forced on everyone else, just because they can't come up with a better business model. If he were in charge a hundred years ago, he'd have outlawed automobiles, since he wouldn't see any other way for horse and buggy makers to make a living.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Aug 2003 @ 2:32am

    One partisan against another

    I'd be curious if the EFF has the same enthusiasm for telling software companies that all their products should be free. As long as we're at it, why not require supermarkets to give away food for free?


    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Aug 2003 @ 6:50am

      Re: One partisan against another

      Why not? Your mom gives it away for free.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Richard NC Arsehill, 5 Aug 2003 @ 8:51am

      Re: One partisan against another

      "I'd be curious if the EFF has the same enthusiasm for telling software companies that all their products should be free. As long as we're at it, why not require supermarkets to give away food for free?"

      Isn't that exactly what the open source movement is doing? Software and other IP has become less and less of a commodity. It's the natural progression of things. This isn't bad, if you can figure out ways to cope/deal with it. Look at IBM. That's a company that has adapted their business model to deal with a changing world. If they didn't they'de be dead, and they know it. But people in the music industry aren't as bright. They would rather sue everyone in the world than actually pay attention to brining in money. They ought to be ashamed of themselves.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Aug 2003 @ 4:05am

    Ease of a crime does not make it right.

    It is easy to kill a baby by shaking its head, but that does not make it right. Nobody I'm aware of is talking about a "new business model" of parenting in which we shake whatever babies we feel like, because they are inherently free on this crowded Earth.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    mgallagher, 5 Aug 2003 @ 6:45am

    Everyone please calm down...

    You can get into specific refutations for why the first two posts do not address the essential issues at hand. But let's be honest, you aren't going to be able to reason with someone who compares making a copy of a digital file with shaking an infant to death.

    There are two lines of argument for why the approach of the entertainment industry is undesireable:

    1) It's bad economic sense. The underlying technology has changed and the marginal cost of production of thier product now approaches zero. The resulting decline in scaricity will push the price of the product to zero in a competative market, unless externalities (i.e. government protected monopolies) are maintained. Monopolists nearly always produce less and charge more than would otherwise be allocatively efficient. In other words it might be good for a very small number of firms, but bad for everybody else.

    2) It's bad social sense. The EFF's position frequently refers to the problem of setting precedent upon which further legal interpretations are based. They aren't all that concerned with Britney Spears, so much as they are concerned with the trend toward increasing control of knowledge by a relatively small number of entities and the long term implications that has for the progression of society. OK, a little longhair-academic perhaps. But a completly valid point, especially if you read such books as James Burke's "The Knowledge Web".

    So yes, from the RIAA's perspective, the EFF's positions are wrong because they would hurt revenue in the next quarter. There are, however, much bigger fish to fry here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ed Halley, 5 Aug 2003 @ 8:09am

    No Subject Given

    As much as I feel the copyright bargain is a massively important cause, I'm a little saddened to see the article defining EFF as narrowly and inaccurately as it did, making us appear as some raving sponsor of digital piracy.

    The EFF aren't anti-RIAA, nor is the copyright bargain our only cause. We are not trying to protect outlaws but to reframe laws and punishments to be fair.

    We're concerned with the currently unbalanced state of the copyright bargain, but also with the unbalanced state of many civil and human rights as they are expressed through electronic media.

    Censorship? Privacy? Virtual property? Check out eff.org's "issues" page to see the real scope of the Electronic Freedom Foundation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Augustus Gloop, 5 Aug 2003 @ 8:58am

    bad analogy

    Comparing the music industry to buggy makers doesn't make any sense. "File sharers" aren't creating a better competing product, they are using, but not paying for an existing product. So it's not as though the buggy makers are being put out of business by the car, they are being put out of business by people who steal buggies from the dealership.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike (profile), 5 Aug 2003 @ 9:14am

      Re: bad analogy

      Comparing the music industry to buggy makers doesn't make any sense. "File sharers" aren't creating a better competing product, they are using, but not paying for an existing product. So it's not as though the buggy makers are being put out of business by the car, they are being put out of business by people who steal buggies from the dealership.

      Nope. Yours is the wrong analogy by assuming that copying a digital good is somehow the same thing as stealing a tangible good.

      Here's why the buggy analogy works: The music industry is not really in the "music industry", they're in the music distribution industry. Right now, they prefer distribution via the very inefficient means of CDs. Along comes some folks who have created a much more efficient distribution mechanism: peer-to-peer file sharing, and the music industry is freaking out because it turns their whole economic model upside down.

      The horse and buggy industry was really the "transportation vehicle" industry. Automobiles came along and were much more efficient mechanisms for transporting people, and thus the horse and buggy makers had to adjust.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Richard NC Arsehill, 5 Aug 2003 @ 9:47am

        Re: bad analogy

        Mike, I think what he's pointing out is the seperation between p2p networks and their administrators, and their users. Other than that, I don't see the two of you dissagreeing that much.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Aug 2003 @ 12:27pm

        Re: bad analogy

        Actually, with the notable exception of Studebaker, the car manufacturers put the buggy/wagon manufacturers out of business; they _didn't_ adapt and change. BUT, from an economic perspective, this was a diversion of consumer expenditures from one type of vendor/vehicle to another. The difference was just who you paid.

        By not recognizing the need to change their distribution methods or at least offer alternatives early on, the labels let an alternative distribution system develop that has no revenue stream.
        What was previously paid for is now "free", but it is basically the same product. To turn that revenue stream back to the labels the cost is going to have to be very low (something they won't accept) and the penalty for trying to circumvent the system has to be onerous. They're sure working on that one.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        LittleW0lf, 5 Aug 2003 @ 6:21pm

        Re: bad analogy

        Here's why the buggy analogy works: The music industry is not really in the "music industry", they're in the music distribution industry. Right now, they prefer distribution via the very inefficient means of CDs. Along comes some folks who have created a much more efficient distribution mechanism: peer-to-peer file sharing, and the music industry is freaking out because it turns their whole economic model upside down.

        Considering it was one or more anonymous trollers who started this off with rediculous trolls, I am not sure why everyone is getting hot over it.

        Neither Mike nor anyone else including the EFF is saying that p2p networks practicing wholesale "music sharing" (or "theft" as some here keep spouting, particularly the small minded Anonymous Trollers,) is good for the industry. What they are saying is that digital distribution is far better than CD-distribution, and the RIAA doesn't want digital distribution because they cannot place a good, competitive (or in the case of the RIAA, anticompetitive) value on the cost of a song sent through digital distribution channels.

        It is a fact, that until recently, the RIAA was against all forms of digital distribution, not because of "illegal file sharing," but because it didn't work well into their business model. And like has been said here already, the competition that will eventually put the small-minded RIAA out of business will not be the "file traders", but the musicians who realize that the RIAA is a no-win situation, and will choose to instead provide their music through digital distribution channels which are fair for both the musician and the consumer, instead of the entirely illegal (remember, twice have they been found guilty or liable for price fixing,) immoral, and so unbelievably unfair system the RIAA has in place right now.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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