RIAA Still Pushing Its Bogus Message Of A 'Value Gap' And 'Fair Compensation'

from the can-we-review-some-history dept

The RIAA is not exactly known for being the most honest of organizations out there, but in an interview given by the organization's General Counsel, Steve Marks, the level of blatant dishonesty is taken to incredible new levels. I'm going to take just one paragraph and break down what a load of total bullshit it is, and hopefully it will demonstrate, yet again, why the RIAA should never be taken seriously in its claims. It's the final question in a short interview with the Hollywood Reporter, and the question is at the top:
What changes do you foresee in the landscape of music law over the next five years?

Issues like the “value gap” and obligations of intermediaries will continue to dominate the legal landscape. Ideally, the Byzantine legal structure today would give way to a system where creators are fairly compensated and competitors are on equal footing. Those who have an interest in music could come together to figure out solutions. While litigation can be an important tool, it often takes a long time and the results are unclear. Solutions between business and industry partners can clear a path through thorny legal issues. The combination of partnership and technology can go a long way to ensuring a healthy music ecosystem.
Let's take this bit by bit.
Issues like the "value gap"....
The "value gap" is a completely made up concept by the RIAA and friends, arguing that internet platforms aren't paying the record labels (not the artists) enough. It's based on a series of out and out lies, including the simply false claim that artists make more from vinyl record sales than from online streaming.

The "value gap" is the RIAA cherry picking misleading numbers to argue that internet platforms aren't paying them enough. Note that they don't make any effort to improve what they're doing -- they're just demanding more money from platforms... just because.

And, really, that's the same issue with the rest of that sentence:
... obligations of intermediaries will continue to dominate the legal landscape.
"Obligations of intermediaries." That's legal speak for "we want everyone else to act as our private police force, and they should automatically block infringing material or we should be able to sue them for billions of dollars." Never mind the fact that the industry can't even keep track of its own copyrights, and has been known to sue over authorized works or that the RIAA itself has a history of falsely claiming infringement on works that were actually authorized -- even in cases that resulted in the bogus takedown of a site that was sent promotional works to post. And yet it expects "intermediaries" (read: Google) to magically know which works are authorized and which are not -- and to face billions of dollars in possible judgments if it guesses wrong.
Ideally, the Byzantine legal structure today...
The reason copyright's legal structure today is so "Byzantine" is because of lobbying by the RIAA and its friends at the MPAA. Every time a new technology comes along, the RIAA flips out and demands a patchwork of add-ons to copyright law to protect its gatekeeper powers, allowing it to extract monopoly rents.

Of course, the "Byzantine legal structure" Marks is whining about here is actually the very one that the RIAA itself lobbies heavily for with the DMCA's 512 notice-and-takedown provisions. The RIAA wanted a way to censor the internet via copyright law, and the DMCA was the trick. The fact that the RIAA no longer likes the deal that it fought for is just a bad joke.

And, let's not even get into the "Byzantine" structure of RIAA label contracts designed to keep artists from actually getting paid... Or, wait, let's dig right into that following the next bit of insanity from Marks.
... give way to a system where creators are fairly compensated...
Wait. The RIAA is asking for "creators" to be "fairly compensated"? Hahahahahahaha. Oh, that's a good one. This is the same RIAA who has worked incredibly hard to screw over artists time and time again to make sure they are not fairly compensated? The same RIAA whose member labels create contracts where artists routinely note that they made $0 in royalties, because the label contracts make it so impossible to recoup the advance that when you ask for an "accounting" of how much money an album has made, the labels just make shit up to avoid paying.

These would also be the very same RIAA member labels who take the vast majority of the revenue from new platforms, leaving just a pittance for artists -- and then whine that it's the platforms not giving them a fair deal. The very same labels that make sure that artists get close to nothing of any money coming in to the label. And, yes, the very same labels who for years pretended that digital music was classified as the same as a CD sale -- with much lower royalty rates than "licensed" music, leading numerous artists to sue just to get what they were clearly owed. The very same labels that many artists have had to sue, just to get a proper accounting of what is owed.

So, I'm sorry, but what a load of bullshit for the RIAA, of all organizations, to claim that it's fighting for "fair compensation" for artists. The RIAA has a decades-long history of screwing over actual artists at basically every opportunity.
... competitors are on equal footing...
Another completely ridiculous claim. The "equal footing" that the RIAA is talking about here is forcing online platforms to all conform to one particular business model -- a totally unsustainable one where an insane percentage of revenue all flows back to the labels (not the artists) despite the fact that the labels fought these platforms and did absolutely nothing to help make them a success. The whole "equal footing" or "level playing field" is really just the RIAA demanding a particular business model and saying that any innovation in business models (even if they're better for actual artists) should not be allowed, unless the RIAA gives its okay. It's basically the "we don't want any innovation" stance.
Those who have an interest in music could come together to figure out solutions.
This is hilarious. For decades, the RIAA has been the major obstructionist party here. It was the internet industry that dragged the RIAA kicking and screaming into the 21st century while people like Marks focused on suing music fans. To now claim that he just wants to "come together to figure out solutions" is laughable. The only "solutions" the RIAA wants are ones where it does none of the work, and it gets all of the money.
While litigation can be an important tool, it often takes a long time and the results are unclear.
Translation: we sued a bunch of fans and that made everyone hate us. Also, we sued a bunch of platforms and lost badly because the law isn't actually what we want it to be.
Solutions between business and industry partners can clear a path through thorny legal issues. The combination of partnership and technology can go a long way to ensuring a healthy music ecosystem.
This is just a repeat of the opening line, basically. It's the RIAA saying that the internet industry needs to solve all of its problems, and what it means is that the recording industry doesn't want to budge an inch, doesn't want to do anything, and just wants the internet companies to give tons of money to the labels and to wave a magic wand and make piracy disappear.

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  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 4 Jan 2017 @ 9:57am

    Stories like this make me want to download a BT client and PieRate shit just because.

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

  • identicon
    kallethen, 4 Jan 2017 @ 10:09am

    RIAA is still feeling withdrawal symptoms from the CD era when they could force people to pay $15-$20 per album just to get the one song people liked on each album.

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

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 10:27am

      Re:

      That was my biggest complaint about CDs. I can't tell you how many I have that were HUGE disappointments due to only having ONE SONG worth paying for on them.

      All the while the record companies kept making up new lies for why CDs continued to increase in price instead of costing less as they should have.

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

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 4 Jan 2017 @ 10:11am

    Leeches will get lazy

    "... competitors are on equal footing... "

    Translation... "We want our business model protected by law, so we can destroy any competition."

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

    • identicon
      TripMN, 4 Jan 2017 @ 12:18pm

      Re: Leeches will get lazy

      The competition they want to be mandated to be on equal footing is the RIAA and company themselves who would fall behind otherwise. Since they have proven they won't innovate, they should die off like any creature that does not adapt to new surroundings. But instead of that, they want a government forced parity between themselves and the innovators.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 5:40pm

      Re: Leeches will get lazy

      Pretty much. Their idea of 'equal footing' is one where they have all the advantages and everyone that might present competition is destroyed.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 10:12am

    And the fight goes on..

    One of the easiest ways to get Caught using/playing Music and such in public...(yes PUBLIC) are those workers that sell services to Bars and such for record machines..
    I think they get a BIG bonus if some one can be taken to court..

    And I would think that the RIAA/MPAA both HATE the old boom boxes..and one of the reasons they arent around..

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

  • identicon
    Shilling, 4 Jan 2017 @ 10:17am

    So the RIAA is basically saying about their revenue "problem" what the government is telling tech companies about encryption.

    "Nerd harder".

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

    • icon
      Wyrm (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 11:11am

      Re:

      Close but not quite. They want us to "nerd harder" and to pay them for the privilege.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2017 @ 11:31am

        Re: Re:

        Never mind the nerd harder, they think that listening to one song once is grounds for them to receive most of your income for as long as you live.

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

    • identicon
      Thad, 4 Jan 2017 @ 4:13pm

      Re:

      The two things aren't separate. The DMCA's anti-circumvention clause is an attack on security researchers just as much as customers and remixers. And it's all part of this same idea that magical thinking can stop the march of technology.

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

  • identicon
    Mononymous Tim, 4 Jan 2017 @ 10:21am

    Remember in the 80s when CDs were promised to be cheaper because the materials were cheaper? They really got us on that one, didn't they? Maybe they'll.. pfff, no they won't.

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

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 10:58am

      Re:

      Aw, c'mon. CD's are round discs. Not just similar to vinyl, but to shellac records. It's only common sense that the 20% breakage fee should carry over.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 5 Jan 2017 @ 12:22am

      Re:

      That's part of their real complaint. Their heyday was the mid 90s, when they were able to make huge margins on CDs and people didn't have too many options as they also controlled a lot of the radio airplay, etc. They want those days back, but they want to make sure others are blamed in case they do it wrong again.

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

  • icon
    Nick (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 10:25am

    If people aren't willing to pay a price for a product, then the price should go down. If the price goes down enough you can't make money from it, then less music is being made. If less music is being made (and thus available) then demand goes up. If demand goes up, prices go up.

    I don't understand why the RIAA is complaining about money problems. The market should correct it. If they can't do what they do under current prices, then change things, or shut down. Preferably the latter.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2017 @ 10:31am

      Re:

      You described a market in which there is competition, the music market place is no where near competitive.

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

    • identicon
      Non understander, 5 Jan 2017 @ 8:27pm

      Re:

      Price should go down? Why???
      Sorry, as a song writer and also music lover I'd like to bring it to the simple point: a portion of music is like a portion of french fries. If you are not willing to pay the price - take something else.
      Regarding remixing: It's not a human right. If you want to remix something, write and produce a song and you may remix it a million times. But you want to remix the work of others...
      I have many wishes too. But if I see a Ferrari next coner and love to drive it, I am not allowed to do so. Or do you accept that I use your family room for holiday because I like to stay in your house...?!

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

      • icon
        The Wanderer (profile), 6 Jan 2017 @ 12:36pm

        Re: Re:

        > Price should go down? Why???

        Because of the law of supply and demand. Lower demand means lower prices, and so does higher supply; higher demand means higher prices, and so does lower supply.

        > If you are not willing to pay the price - take something else.

        Yes, of course.

        And if too few people are willing to pay the price, then the seller should lower the price, because they will be able to make more money by selling more copies at the lower price instead of fewer copies at the higher one.

        Your other comments - about remixing, and (to paraphrase very loosely) "using things without getting permission from the owner" - have nothing to do with the post you're replying to.

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

  • icon
    Rapnel (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 10:36am

    When I think of the RIAA I think of trust and fairness because they are the stalwart giants of all that is righteous by tirelessly defending and ensuring the rights of artists and their fans with the utmost care and concern for all. THEY are THE thought leaders both now and well into the future for everything music.

    I'm simply amazed they haven't crushed the one, lone, live music venue within a 20 mile radius, yet. But that (somewhat more than free) free-riding bastard of a pub will die soon enough. Music ain't free, can't be.

    God Bless the RIAA!

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

    • icon
      DannyB (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 10:47am

      Re:

      I think the MPAA does more to protect the public good than the RIAA, by ensuring that theaters have such terrible movies that people stay safely in their homes.

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

  • icon
    nasch (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 10:38am

    Reinterpreted

    The funny thing is most of it makes perfect sense if you interpret it rationally rather than in RIAA crazy-talk.

    Issues like the “value gap”

    The gap between what the labels take and what artists get

    and obligations of intermediaries will continue to dominate the legal landscape.

    Intermediaries meaning record labels - they're between artists and audiences.

    Ideally, the Byzantine legal structure today would give way to a system where creators are fairly compensated and competitors are on equal footing.

    Sounds great!

    Those who have an interest in music could come together to figure out solutions.

    You don't want a Byzantine legal structure? Go back to the original 1790 copyright law. Simple.

    While litigation can be an important tool, it often takes a long time and the results are unclear.

    This is harder to square. I haven't seen much evidence that litigation is ever an important tool in this business, but the second part is certainly right.

    Solutions between business and industry partners can clear a path through thorny legal issues.

    Could be.

    The combination of partnership and technology can go a long way to ensuring a healthy music ecosystem.

    Absolutely agree.

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

    • icon
      Wyrm (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 11:22am

      Re: Reinterpreted

      That's exactly the problem with this kind of hollow speech: anyone can hear what he wants.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 5 Jan 2017 @ 12:17am

      Re: Reinterpreted

      "Issues like the “value gap”
      The gap between what the labels take and what artists get"

      Actually, it's more like: "The gap between what we used to get when we could charge $20 for 10 songs when people only really wanted 2 of them, and what we get now when we have to charge what they're worth".

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

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 10:42am

    Fairly compensated

    Q. How can a musical creator be fairly compensated?
    A. Don't sign up with an RIAA record label!

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

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 11:49am

      Re: Fairly compensated

      Unfortunately, the way copyright works nowadays makes this pretty difficult. The MAFIAA inserted themselves between the public and culture with copyrights. This will be hard to get rid of...

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

      • icon
        DannyB (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 1:05pm

        Re: Re: Fairly compensated

        I don't see how copyright interferes.

        If you are NOT already signed up with an RIAA member record label, then DO NOT sign up.

        Get your music online. iTunes. Amazon Digital Music. Etc.

        Get your music played on radio-like internet streaming services.

        Find other ways to promote yourself. It would take some work. But you don't have the RIAA in the middle screwing both you and your fans. And then the horrors of "collection societies" to use a euphemism for extortion. It has been done before with success.

        The beauty of Amazon, for example, is that I can easily and inexpensively purchase and download DRM-free mp3's. Put them on every current device I own. And every future device I will ever own. The audio engineering is good. Uniform volume across tracks. And I feel like I actually purchased something. It cannot disappear like Plays For Sure, or Zune, or any other DRM system.

        We live in an age where the physical media is less and less important. This above all else is what makes the future of the RIAA irrelevant. Who needs record labels when you don't need physical records to put the labels on to.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2017 @ 4:57pm

          Re: Re: Re: Fairly compensated

          To be fair, though, Ninja does have a point.

          The RIAA can, will and has been known to sue on behalf of artists it doesn't cover in music downloading cases. Performance rights organizations are equally bad - if they decide to find you performing live music or anyone performing your music, it won't matter if you've signed on with them or not. If you choose not to sign up with PROs on principle (and you really ought not to), you will have to pay them to perform your music live... which you will never see again.

          So yeah, copyright interferes. The RIAA always makes sure it does.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Jan 2017 @ 6:04pm

      Re: Fairly compensated

      Yes, I'm sure the dorks that haven't signed up for a streaming site yet and are still pirating actually make sure to only steal from RIAA labels. uh huh.

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

  • icon
    PNRCinema (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 10:55am

    Where creators are fairly compensated

    Ho Ho Ho...fairly compensated...that's a laugh. Seriously though, if the labels actually want artists to be "fairly compensated", then let's do it. Record labels today are basically simply talent managers, right? So, the math is easy - give them the Hollywood Standard - TEN PERCENT of the profit, and NOTHING ELSE. The rest goes to the artists. And make it illegal for the labels to do any funny business. Honestly, I have NEVER figured out why the Occupy movement never hit the entertainment industry - they are and always have been worse than the ultimate baddies on Wall Street or the oil industry...the entertainment industry practices legal blackmail, legal extortion, legal harrassment...and Congress won't do nn F'N thing about it...

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

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 11:47am

      Re: Where creators are fairly compensated

      People pay more attention to banks and oil because that hits them in places they can't ignore - their home and car payments, and gas for said car (and maybe natural gas for heating/cooking in said home). The RIAA/MPAA hits you in the optional spending - you can always go do something else... buy a video game, buy a book (almost as bad now, but not quite), go to an arcade/amusement park, etc. The RIAA/MPAA only winds up shifting where you spend your left-over money, while the banks/oil hit you where you can't hide or shift.

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 11:46am

    Wow. With very few changes it could be Comey talking about encryption.

    The tune is the same: you give us everything and get screwed in the process and ever after.

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

  • icon
    Groaker (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 3:28pm

    I would like to see the buying public go on strike, and refuse to buy any more "entertainment" until that industry uses its considerable political power to cause the copyright law back to what it was in the original constitution.

    Until that happens, the only change will be for the worse. If the public continues to act upon their addiction, then they deserve what they get.

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

    • icon
      jupiterkansas (profile), 5 Jan 2017 @ 8:44am

      Re:

      People have been boycotting RIAA companies since around 2004 and it hasn't changed a thing. You'll never get enough people boycotting to make a change, because it's just music and people don't care enough.

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

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 5 Jan 2017 @ 12:15am

    "It's based on a series of out and out lies, including the simply false claim that artists make more from vinyl record sales than from online streaming."

    Even if that were true, so what. I've yet to hear any realistic explanation as to why someone should be expecting the same returns from single play rentals as they would from high quality collectable items bought to own.

    Perhaps one of our usual crowd would like to step in and offer an explanation as to why this expectation is anything other than insanity?

    "Those who have an interest in music could come together to figure out solutions."

    They did - but those people were artists, fans and companies willing to listen to their needs. The result was that they worked out that most people are interested in listening to a wide range of music without necessarily owning it - hence streaming and other forms of radio. Other formats with higher profit margins exist, and are actually quite vibrant (UK outlets have been reporting sales of vinyl massively on the rise over the last couple of decades, for example).

    The only "problem" is that companies that were built on high profit margin physical product and monopoly outlets are struggling when they can't depend on those things to make them rich. People interested in the actual music are quite happy.

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

  • icon
    Almost Anonymous (profile), 5 Jan 2017 @ 1:12pm

    Define "value"

    Apparently, the RIAA just doesn't understand the meaning of the word "value". In a time not so very long ago, people would demonstrate how much they valued a person's music/performance by throwing coins up on the stage at the end of the performance. The value of that music/performance was the amount those coins added up to, once collected. The performer could do this as often as they were able and people were willing to listen and/or pay.

    Somewhere along the way, this got perverted into the modern way of thinking: every "listen" should be paid for. Those old bards would chuckle cynically; they know full well that not everyone paid, heck they were probably happy if even a quarter of the listeners paid.

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

  • icon
    rawcookie (profile), 5 Jan 2017 @ 2:40pm

    Dick Dale is the Man

    I have a friend who was sitting at the table with Canned Heat when they signed their first recording contract. He said the sad thing was they didn't know they were signing away the rights to their music.

    Here is some good advice from Dick Dale on what to do.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8AJxc3Lxn4o

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

  • icon
    Richard Bennett (profile), 5 Jan 2017 @ 8:05pm

    Ayyadurai

    This is cute, but when are you going to respond to Ayyadurai's lawsuit?

    I don't like Techdirt and what it stands for - piracy and abuse - so I'm very unhappy about the fact that I have to take your side against the loathsome scammer who claims to have invented email a decade after it was in common use.

    Kick his ass, take his assets, and have his lawyer disbarred. Nothing less will do.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Jan 2017 @ 6:17am

      Re: Ayyadurai

      Generally, defense lawyers disapprove of defendents commenting online about litigation while it's still ongoing. To quote Popehat, the lawyerly advice is "When in doubt, shut up. That applies equally online – perhaps even more so."

      As entertaining as reading about Techdirt's fight against this fraud would be, priority #1 is making sure not to do anything that might possibly inadvertently cause damage to the case.

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

      • icon
        Richard Bennett (profile), 6 Jan 2017 @ 8:36am

        Re: Re: Ayyadurai

        Gloria Allred comments on ongoing litigation all the time, it's her claim to fame. Remaining silent is so not Masnick I'm wondering if he hasn't been abducted by aliens.

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

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 10 Jan 2017 @ 5:59am

      Re: Ayyadurai

      Richard, love, the stuffing has fallen out of your strawman. Techdirt stands for the promotion of innovation and the public interest.

      Most of the "abuse" is on the part of the **AAs and IPR holders cheating We the People out of our hear-earned $$$. It'd be easier to sympathise with your POV if you'd only stop whingeing and make a case for it. As for me, I used to be more supportive of the copyright regime on the grounds that it's fair to compensate people for the work that they do. I changed my mind when I realised that copyright is a popularity contest — it's basically a rich man's game and primarily benefits the rich and famous. As for those artists and creators trying to get their careers off the ground — not so much.

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

      • icon
        Richard Bennett (profile), 10 Jan 2017 @ 1:44pm

        Re: Re: Ayyadurai

        Naw, TechDirt stands for Google and Facebook rather than for the people. The people includes the creators who have a human right to the fruits of their labor. Technology doesn't vacate human rights.

        Shifting the discussion to your favorite bogey man doesn't work on me.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2017 @ 11:30am

    RIAA think they own music. Laughable.

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


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