RIAA Greed Knows No Bounds

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The RIAA has filed suit against AllofMP3 seeking back royalties for music downloaded between June and October of this past year. The filing of the suit has sparked reaction from both AllofMP3 and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

The RIAA is seeking a gargantuan compensation figure as part of the suit, a whopping $1.65 trillion dollars.

That’s right, trillion.

*raises pinky to mouth and cackles*

How did the RIAA arrive at such a staggering, Dr. Evil-esque amount? According to their calculations, between June and October of ’06, approximately 11 million songs were downloaded from AllofMP3. Multiply that by the $150,000 the RIAA is seeking in back royalties for each song, and you arrive at the magic number.

Russian-based AllofMP3 responded to the outrageous figure rather calmly in a blog post:

“AllofMP3 understands that several U.S. record label companies filed a lawsuit against Media Services in New York,” an unnamed “senior company official” stated. “This suit is unjustified as AllofMP3 does not operate in New York. Certainly the labels are free to file any suit they wish, despite knowing full well that AllofMP3 operates legally in Russia.

In the mean time, AllofMP3 plans to continue to operate legally and comply with all Russian laws.”

The RIAA has been the object of some scrutiny by many who claim that artists rarely, if ever, see any part of the “royalties” collected by the organization from online music sales. Along with AllofMP3.com, the EFF is taking a stand against the RIAA by petitioning Congress to put an end to the egregious lawsuits that the organization files against American citizens rather than the entities that distribute the illegal content.

Taken from the EFF site:

“This irrational crusade is not generating a single penny for the artists that the RIAA claims to protect. The RIAA should be working to create a rational, legal means by which its customers can take advantage of file sharing technology and pay a fair price for the music they love. With artists increasingly turning against the lawsuits, momentum may be shifting in favor of a better way forward.”

Disclosure: I signed this petition as a show of support for the EFF’s stance.

I’m left wondering how much of this proposed $1.65 trillion that the artists would actually be entitled should the RIAA win this mockery of a lawsuit? After the RIAA takes their cut, and the record labels then take their share of the loot, and after it’s all distributed to the various artists whose music was “illegally” downloaded, how much is left – $150 per artist? Maybe?

Even better, though, let’s look at the alternative. What would be the ramifications of a court decision in AllofMP3’s favor? Nate Anderson over at Ars Technica delivers a great theoretical analysis:

“Should the court case go AllofMP3’s way, it would be a major coup for them. Though it would not address the issue of the service’s legality under Russian law, such a ruling could spark an exodus from iTunes as consumers turn to cheaper music at higher bitrates and without DRM, now secure in the knowledge that what they are doing has the blessing of a federal court. It would also go a long way toward convincing credit card companies to reinstate AllofMP3, and might even make it more difficult for the US Trade Representative to push Russian authorities to shutter the site.”

As you might have been able to deduce by now, I’m not exactly a card-carrying member of the RIAA. It’s not that I condone piracy, quite the contrary in fact. It’s just difficult to support an organization that has a long and well-documented history of sticking it to musicians time and time again and keeping the loot for themselves.

The facts are:

•   People want affordable music
•   People want a wide selection to choose from
•   People want DRM-free content so they have complete control over music for which they have bought

Legal or not, AllofMP3 provides all of these benefits to the customer. Perhaps the RIAA would be better served by learning how to leverage the digital music community in a similar fashion, instead of employing these Gestapo-like tactics to hunt down and prosecute ordinary civilians and off-shore providers.

That’s my .02, anyway.

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Joe is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest ebusiness news.

RIAA Greed Knows No Bounds
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