Monday, June 22, 2009

No Album Sale On The Horizon

Sooner or later, the music industry is going to have to come to grips with the fact that the "file-sharing" cat is out of the bag and that their business models must drastically change.*

I've decided to help them along in that process.

Last week, a jury awarded $1.92 million to plaintiffs Arista Records LLC, Capitol Records, Inc., Interscope Records, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, UMG Recordings, Inc., and Warner Bros Records Inc.

The defendant, one Jammie Thomas-Rasset, was accused of illegally downloading and sharing (over a P2P network) 24 songs. Offhand, my recollection is that the number of "shares" (people downloading the songs from her hard drive) was alleged to be in the neighborhood of 1,700. So, here's the math:

- Any of the songs likely retailed as an MP3 download for 99 cents.

- 24 downloads at 99 cents each is $23.76.

- An additional 1,700 re-downloads at 99 cents each is $1,683.

- So, total actual damages max out at $1,706.76.

There's just no reasonable way to get from $1,706.76 in actual damages to $1.92 million in statutory or punitive damages, and if the record companies spent that much on attorney fees, well, they got rooked and it's their own damn fault. The award is an outrage. I'm offended and displeased. Fortunately, I am empowered to act on my offense and displeasure.

I don't buy a lot of music, but I do buy some music, and I've recently been contemplating buying an album sold by one of the plaintiff labels, Interscope.

I'm not going to buy that album. Instead, I've donated the sale price of the album ($8.99) to Jammie Thomas-Rassert's legal defense fund.

As per usual, I challenge those who agree with me to act in the same fashion.

* I'm personally up in the air on the whole idea of "intellectual property" and expect, once I've worked through certain arguments, to address it, probably tediously and at length. That is not what this is about. Even if copyright is justifiable, the punishment in this case isn't. And as a practical matter, these record labels are wasting time and money and making themselves look like asses -- the digital age has made copyright enforcement impossible, and has therefore made copyright itself effectively obsolete. No amount of litigious misbehavior toward single moms in Minnesota is going to reverse that.

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