Over the last few weeks, we've noticed that a series of folks who regularly portray "the loyal opposition" in our comments have been trying to make the case that the RIAA's legal strategy for much of the past decade was not, in fact, a dismal failure. They're posting editorials insisting that the lawsuit campaign
was what was necessary to force laws to change in the RIAA's favor, for one thing. And then, one of our regular "anonymous" commenters submitted the following story, insisting that we would never publish it because "Techdirt never publishes the truth," as well as claiming that the following is proof that the RIAA's lawsuits against music fans was a "carefully crafted legal action that has produced results." The specific story is a story from Ars Technica about US Copyright Group's lawsuit campaign
(which we've been covering as well
), but which includes the following aside about the RIAA's lawsuits:
As the RIAA lawsuits showed us, most people will settle. Data from the recording industry lawsuits, revealed in a court case, showed that 11,000 of the 18,000 Does settled immediately or had their cases dropped by the labels. Seven thousand either refused to settle or never responded to the settlement letter, but after the RIAA subpoenaed their identities and filed "named" lawsuits against them, nearly every one settled.
After years of litigation, the number of people who have pursued a trial all the way to a verdict can be counted on one hand.
This, it appears, is the evidence that the RIAA's lawsuit campaign was a whopping success. Of course, some of us might define success in different ways. The RIAA set off this legal strategy, back in 2003, by claiming that this was part of its "education" campaign
to get people to stop using file sharing networks, and go back to buying music directly. How has that worked? Oh, it hasn't. The number of people using file sharing networks to access unauthorized works has continued to grow
at a rather rapid clip. And, of course, the real point of all of this was the bottom line: it was to try to help save the big five (at the time) record labels. Except that hasn't worked either. The big five became the big four and the big four are pretty damn close to becoming the big three, once everyone sorts out what to do with EMI. And all of them have a lot less money than they did before.
As for how successful the lawsuits have been for those big record labels? So successful that EMI threatened
to leave both the RIAA and IFPI if it didn't back away from these lawsuits. So successful that Sony execs referred to the lawsuits as a "money pit"
that have cost the industry millions without bringing back anything near that much in settlement fees.
The fact that lots of people paid up to settle extortion-like fees didn't stop people from using file sharing networks to access unauthorized materials. It didn't get more people to buy. It didn't help the bottom line. It hasn't helped the record labels sell more product. It certainly hasn't helped the big labels stay in business. Hell, it hasn't even helped the RIAA. Towards the end of the legal campaign, the RIAA ended up having massive layoffs
of its own staff. And, let's not even get into discussing what the average music fan thinks of the RIAA and the big labels these days...
Success? If that's what you consider a success story, then you're doing it wrong. How you measure a success is everything, and if your metrics are that you got a large percentage of people to pay up for extortion-like lawsuits, pretty much guaranteeing they'd never buy from you again, while the rest of your business burned to the ground, I'm sorry if I have to question your definition of "success."