RIAA targets new family of 5

In the latest round in the music-sharing battle, the RIAA has targeted a family of 5 children (with two sets of twins), a single mom who also has five children, and a carpenter who’s 12 year old daughter was getting music on Kazaa.

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What, were the addresses not available for the family with a parent in Iraq, or the widowed old lady whose grandkids installed Kazaa one weekend?  Oh wait, the RIAA probably has those subpoenas in the docket for next week.  This is definitely reason # 4,216,981 to hate the RIAA, which for quite a few years has been engaged of the idiotic tactic of persecuting their customers.  I’ve always despised the RIAA for their resistance to join the rest of the technological world and get out of their 1984 model of pricing/selling music.  However, these latest events proves that the RIAA is nothing more than a bunch of fascists, whose tactics make even Tony Soprano go "I can’t believe this guys."

This is such gross abuse of the legal system, where the RIAA directs their legion of lawyers to swarm, intimidate, and ultimately break the families that are barely making ends meet.  For many of these families going RIAA’s settlement price – $3,000-5,000 (but in the case of the single mom with 5 kids, $7,5000), is basically a kid’s college fund, or worse, a another large debt that they probably won’t be able to pay.

I’m not denying the the fact that as the law stands today, music-sharing is illegal, but the way this is being enforced and the degree of the penalty is what I really have an issue with.  The RIAA is intentionally targeting parents and grandparents, whose kids were responsible for installing the file-sharing software (often Kazaa).  Most of the time, these parents don’t even know what Kazaa is, and far less how to use the app.  There is a generational gap between parents and their children when it comes to computer knowledge.  How are parents who barely know how to get on-line, do email and run MS Word, supposed to have visibility and administrate every application on that computer?.  I understand that parents are ultimately responsible for the behavior of their children, but as a society it’s important for us to remember they’re kids and need to be treated differently.  I would equate this situation to an incident that parents may have when their child shop-lifted at an early age.  If a kid steals a candy bar or a toy and is then caught,  most of the time (unless the store owners are jerks) the parents will partner with the store-owners to make this a teachable moment and ultimately give restitution.  The parent (or child) will need to pay for the item they took, and make amends, but we don’t slap hand-cuffs on the parents, fine them grossly and toss them in jail.

The same should ring true with music-downloading.  Most kids don’t have an understanding of the legal ramifications of Kazaa.  Yet with little evidence (that I submit wouldn’t hold up in an actual trial), the RIAA swarms the home and intimidate the family.  Instead of this being a teachable moment it’s a quickly and dirty way for the RIAA to squeeze more money.  What’s worse is that it’s a gross abuse of our court system, clogging it up with the frivolous lawsuits that probably won’t see the light of day in actual trial.  I would love to see someone powerful & resourceful take on the RIAA and force them to show their "evidence" cards.

What really needs to happen is for the legal system to acknowledge the frequency of music/movie sharing amongst the general population, and adjust the penalties as such.  When the anti-theft/piracy laws were written, it was back in the time when they wanted to kill big counterfeit rings.  The law needs to be re-written to deal with large-scale pirates and distributors, separating it from the 12 year old girl downloading a song off Kazaa.  File-sharing is almost as common as speeding on the highway, and the penalties should be treated as such.  Could you imagine if every person caught speeding was forced go to through a trial and pay upwards of $250,000?  The legal process of that magnitude would be astronomical!  You get caught: you pay a fine, maybe have to go to court (if it’s serious), but there are no long-term or civil ramifications.  If file-sharing was treated as such, there would be more incentive to devise a way to enforce the law (a file-sharing version of the Radar Gun), and the RIAA could no longer engage in this civil court intimidation strategies.

Ultimately I believe the RIAA hurts the music industry more than it does to help it, and that they’re a bitter old organization that is in denial about their loss of control.  If the RIAA used a percentage of the effort spend fighting music-sharing, to finding innovative ways to change their business models to adapt to the new technology, they would be far richer.  All of the success of on-line music stores like iTunes – the RIAA could have brought it here years sooner if they weren’t in such denial.  Yet they still haven’t fully embraced this gift-wrapped technology in the music industry.  Their inability to change with the times will ultimately be their undoing.