by Timothy Lee
Tue, Oct 2nd 2007 8:17pm
Wired's Threat Level blog has been doing some excellent work covering the first RIAA file-sharing case to go to trial, in my home state of Minnesota. In the latest post, reporter David Kravets quotes a couple of whoppers in the testimony of Sony BMG exec Jennifer Pariser. First, Pariser claims that "Selling music is the only way a record company makes money." That's just silly. While record sales are certainly a major source of revenue for record labels, there are lots of other revenue streams out there: concert tickets, merchandise, online subscriptions, endorsement deals, advertising revenue, and so forth. Just yesterday we had an excellent example of a band experimenting with offering name-your-own-price downloads coupled with a premium "discbox." And even some of Pariser's fellow record label execs have begun acknowledging that relying so heavily on music sales is a bad business strategy. At least I can see why Pariser might have thought it was a good legal strategy to pretend that record sales are the only conceivable revenue source for the music industry. Her other claim is even more puzzling: when asked if it's legal to make just one copy of a song you've legally purchased, she apparently said that was "a nice way of saying, 'steals just one copy.'" Not only is that flatly untrue as a matter of law, but saying it also seems like a lousy legal strategy, because (as Kravets points out) some of the jurors probably own MP3 players and won't like being accused of stealing. It's also worth mentioning that this is something the industry keeps flip-flopping on. Sometimes (like when they're arguing before the Supreme Court) they say that of course iPods are legal. Other times they call anyone who rips their CD collections for personal use thieves.
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