Tuesday, December 12, 2006

RIAA, the artist's best pal

Barry Ritholtz, who writes the excellent economics blog the Big Picture, pointed out this latest instance of out and out scumminess from the appalling RIAA, an industry group that purports to support musicians, songwriters and composers.

"Anyone who thought the RIAA was anything less than a group of shameless hucksters shilling on behalf of their corporate masters should by now be thoroughly disabused of that notion," writes Ritholtz.

Read this story from Good Morning Silicon Valley and I think you'll agree with Barry:
Throughout its campaign against peer-to-peer services, The Recording Industry Association of America has insisted, unequivocally, that file-sharing hurt musicians. There is a clear correlation between file-sharing and loss of revenue for the music industry, the RIAA argues, one that undermines the livlihoods of the recording artists whose work it peddles. It's a sympathetic argument and one that the group has trotted out time and time again as it fired off lawsuits at college students, grade schoolers and deceased grandmothers (see " Can I charge this copyright infringment settlement to my student bursar account?" and "Music industry to recoup alleged file-sharing losses one 12-year-old at a time"). But it's a disingenous one as well. Because much as the RIAA would like us to see it as a champion of creative artists, it's an industry group concerned with industry profits. And the best interests of artists matter little when it comes to exploiting the revenue streams they create. So, while it's sad to hear that the RIAA is lobbying to reduce rates on royalties paid to songwriters, it's not unexpected. Earlier this month, the group began petitioning government Copyright Royalty Judges to lower the rates paid to publishers and songwriters for use of lyrics and melodies in applications like cell phone ring tones. Citing general music industry change, RIAA Executive Vice President and General Council Steven Marks told The Hollywood Reporter that so-called "Mechanical Royalties" have become badly outdated. That may be true, but is reducing them really the answer? If anything they should be increased, shouldn't they? Particularly if ringtone services generated additional revenues at a time when piracy was "devastating" the record industry. My God, don't these people ever stop?

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