RIAA softens up

Jacky Guerrero

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The Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) has discontinued issuing lawsuits against college students and is now focused on working with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to create initiatives to reduce the use of illegal music sharing, said RIAA officials.

The reason behind the change in tact is due to ‘the growing willingness of ISPs to engage to protect the integrity of legal web commerce.’ The interests of content and ISPs are converging,’ said Mitch Bainwol, chairman and CEO of RIAA, in a prepared statement.

The RIAA felt that their lawsuit program has been successful in teaching ‘kids’ awareness and clarity regarding the law and that the owners of the music are entitled to compensation, but a new approach was needed.

‘Relative to litigation, a graduated response program is far less blunt, far more efficient and, we believe, ultimately far more effective to protect the property rights of the music community,’ said Bainwol.

Since last August the RIAA changed the direction of their campaign by trying to work in conjunction with the ISP companies. This would mean that if they are effective the ISP companies would serve as a monitoring system and alert the user of that computer if they were partaking in illegal music downloading; as opposed to the RIAA directly sending you a pre-lawsuit notification letter in their preliminary step towards suing.

According to the RIAA they have been successful on working with ‘several leading U.S. ISPs’ although they would not provide further information on which companies they are working with due to confidential agreements.

‘During this past summer, we began discussions with New York Attorney General Cuomo, who suggested that now was the time to take our practice of last resort ‘- lawsuits,’ said Bainwol in an email. ‘And replace that form of deterrence with productive engagement by the ISP community in the form of graduated response programs.’

It deviates the intense five-year tone that the RIAA has taken on college campuses. Instead the approach gravitates towards a lesser action taken upon students.

‘That is a rather dramatic change,’ said Dr. Terry Piper, the vice president for Student Affairs, who has been repeatedly notified by the RIAA of CSUN students who have been found in violation of the copyright laws. ‘They have been pursuing the college market for years.’

‘That is a rather dramatic change,’ Piper said, whose been repeatedly notified by the RIAA of CSUN students who have been found in violation of the copyright laws. ‘They have been pursuing the college market for years.’

A national telephone survey, conducted in 2006 by the University of Richmond-based Intellectual Property Institute, found that over one-third of college students illegally download music from free peer-to-peer networks.

‘If we were notified by the RIAA. We notify the student that their computer is being investigated by the RIAA of illegal file sharing,’ said Piper.

In the past the RIAA would send the campus a notification with the IP number of the computer that was illegally downloading music, Piper said.

The student would be notified that their computer is being investigated by the RIAA by way of a given notice of copyright infringement and would be asked to delete any music they have downloaded illegally. The notice ‘tends to serve as a warning’ and if the student complies then no further action would be taken.

‘They have a way of identifying when illegal file sharing is taking place,’ said Piper. ‘If we are notified by the RIAA of an illegal suspect, then we will try to find the computer with the IP number that has those files, although the students personal information would not be disclosed to the RIAA until an official subpoena has been provided.’

When the RIAA initially started sending pre-lawsuit notification letters they saw no end in the practice of illegal file sharing. An entire generation of kids were growing up with the practice and concept that it was okay to take our music without paying for it, said Bainwol. Schools chose not to engage and parents had no real understanding.

For Henry Ly, junior business management major, the method is good and bad, ‘the good is that people will stop downloading music, but it will affect the Internet providers because a lot of people download music so it might cut down on the ISPs’ customers.’

Susan Luu, a junior biology major was worried because ‘there has been a lot of news about people getting caught and getting fined,’ but feels that music is too expensive to buy.

Some studies like the one conducted by the Journal of Political Economy in 2007 found that file sharing has a limited effect on record sales and that ‘the estimated effect of file sharing on sales is not statistically distinguishable from zero.’

However a report by the Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI) issued the same year stated, ‘As a consequence of global and U.S.-based piracy of sound recordings, the U.S. economy loses $12.5 billion in total output annually and as a result of sound recording piracy, the U.S. economy loses 71,060 jobs.’

We have seen digital growth, said Bainwol with digital revenues in 2004 totaling about $180 million, however they have not replaced the decline in physical sales.