In Case You Didn’t Hate The RIAA Enough…

Now Wired News reports that, thanks to a decision by the U.S. Copyright Register, the RIAA can get away with giving songwriters only a few cents per song for ringtones since “ringtones aren’t songs”, a loophole in copyright law. From the article: “The RIAA wanted to be able to distribute ringtones without securing new licenses from songwriters, who technically own the composition.” This strikes me as morally (if not legally) equivalent to piracy – a bunch of hucksters making money off of something they didn’t create without paying for it.

As the RIAA itself says:

The pirate’s credo is still the same–why pay for it when it’s so easy to steal? The credo is as wrong as it ever was. Stealing is still illegal, unethical, and all too frequent in today’s digital age.

Even worse? Piracy and hypocrisy. The RIAA’s got plenty of both to go around.

Fortunately, there’s a good chance the RIAA will be dead in the water in a few years. From their About page:

Its mission is to foster a business and legal climate that supports and promotes our members’ creative and financial vitality. Its members are the record companies that comprise the most vibrant national music industry in the world.

The environment they’re supporting is draconian, paranoid, and anything but creative – artists today are faced with even more restrictions than consumers are. As this new ringtones ripoff demonstrates, artists are in for a raw deal when they sign with “the majors”. And aspiring artists have far more options (MySpace is just the tip of the iceberg) today to distribute their music. So much for fostering creativity. I just can’t resist paraphrasing Star Wars here: the tighter they squeeze, the more artists will slip through their fingers. It’s just not worth it for an artist today to sign away half of their profits to a record company just for distribution (another 30% goes to marketing, and recording costs come out of what’s left). And once the artists are gone, there’s not much keeping the RIAA afloat, is there?

–YY

p.s. I like how the RIAA refer to themselves on their website as “it”.
p.p.s. From an earlier Wired article: “Peter Jenner, manager of Billy Bragg, The Clash, Disposable Heroes, Ian Dury, Pink Floyd, and T.Rex, thinks labels are broken and that the days of DRM are numbered.”

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