Last week, the Recording Industry Association of America sued Brianna LaHarra, 12, for $2,000. Her crime was downloading nursery rhymes and other songs using Kazaa. LaHarra, along with over 200 others who were sued, faced potential penalties of over $100,000 per song.
The RIAA began their incessant whining over lost sales revenue when Shawn Fanning introduced Napster in 1999 and CD sales dropped, causing the industry to lose millions of unearned dollars. According to Time Magazine, CD sales peaked in 1999 and have dropped 14 percent since then to only $11.6 billion in 2002.
Instead of taking the drop in sales as a hint of exorbitant prices and sub-par products, the RIAA dug a deeper hole for itself by angering nearly everyone with its constant threats of legal proceedings against downloaders and file sharers.
Now, the RIAA and artists who previously fought against their music being online are realizing that they aren't going to get their way, and are finally trying to find a logical way to capitalize on the situation. However, they still refuse to accept the blame for their mistakes.
Time Magazine titled a Sept. 15 article, "How to Go Legit." I ask, "Why Go Legit?" If the music is available free and with the RIAA behaving as it is, it doesn't make sense for me to pay for music. Yes, there are people - even 12-year-olds - being sued, but the chances I'll be next are relatively low, and it's a risk I am willing to take until the RIAA takes appropriate steps towards being fair to its customers.
On Wednesday, however, the RIAA showed just how far from that goal they are when its members met at a congressional hearing and blamed each other - and even Verizon - for their losses.
According to the Washington Post, telecommunications executives accused each other of causing this problem by resisting technological change, and RIAA President Cary Sherman absurdly credited Verizon's "overt and subtle marketing strategies" to sell their DSL service with the drop in record sales.
Verizon's representative, William Barr, denied the claim, saying that instead of properly addressing the situation, the RIAA has instead declared "a jihad against 12-year-old girls."
The DSL provider has been thrown unnecessarily into a legal battle to protect the privacy of its subscribers from the RIAA, who is now even challenging a federal judge's ruling over the legality of file-sharing networks - another battle it'll never win.
The best and only attempt the music industry has made to appease those who prefer to get their music online and a song-at-a-time instead of as a whole album is Apple's iTunes. The service charges $0.99 per song, and has thus far sold 10 million songs.
Still, if you wanted to download the equivalent of an entire CD, which is approximately 15 songs, it would still cost you $15. This is the approximate price CDs cost now, and you're not even getting a tangible object through downloading. The production cost is lower, but the price is the same.
Though Apple's initiative is a start, a better attempt will have to be made if the music industry truly expects to lure irritated fans that are now used to free music into spending their money both online and at stores.
In the near future, I expect there will be similar subscription-type downloading programs available, but the RIAA needs to realize there will always be a medium through which people will get their product free. Bands like Metallica need to realize that they alienate and anger their fans when their idiotic drummer gripes about how much money he's losing when makes more money in a decade than most of his fans will in a life time.
The RIAA needs to curb its immaturity and acknowledge its lack of foresight, accept its losses and move on. By refusing to embrace technological developments in favor of maintaining their static policy of overcharging simply because they could, the record labels invited this situation upon themselves and they won't get anywhere by suing children.