Today the RIAA announced a new victory in its on going string of pyrrhic victories attributed to the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act. Two men, one in Florida and the other in Milwaukee, where indicted on charges of violating criminal copyright law for posting Ryan Adams & The Cardinals songs on a website.
While I agree that listening to alt-country should be criminalized, there has been little evidence that supports the RIAA assertion that “pre-release piracy” as they have termed it, negatively impacts sales. Mitch Bainwol, Chairman and CEO of the RIAA, seems to be overstating things a bit when he claims that “pre-release piracy is a particularly damaging and onerous form of theft.” It is just as likely that pre-release material spurs interest in the artist and their work. What is certain is that suing or helping to imprison your customers (their friends, relatives and/or neighbors) does negatively impact sales. As the RIAA continues to become increasingly strident and ossified in its position towards digital distribution it also increases its trend towards irrelavence.
Despite their questionable taste in music, their lack of permission and their poor sense of timing the men who posted the Ryan Adams songs may deserve to be forced to spend a few days being forced to listen to only Britney Spears, Keith Urban and other major label dreck but facing “up to five years of imprisonment, a fine of $250,000, and three years of supervised release” sounds excessive. Even if the RIAA wins everyone one of its recently announced “songlifting lawsuits“, it will ultimatly only suceed at driving away the customers of the record labels it purports to represent. As Sam Ford writes in the C3 white paper on fans “developing emotional capital is more profitable in the long run than being overly concerned with intellectual property.”