In the Fall of 2003, during a social gathering at an industry event, I found myself being consulted by Vice Presidents of RIAA & MPAA (in an unofficial capacity) on how their associations could curtail online piracy.
I told them slowly and clearly that they must separate the stigma of the offense of file sharing from counterfeiting. I explained that counterfeiting is linked to organized crime including terrorism. Online file sharing, while out of control, is a theft of convenience and needs to carry its own stigma apart from the oft-violent black market profiteers. I continued that it would be impossible to convince intelligent folks that sharers and counterfeiters are the same people. Even then studies showed that most individuals admitted to regularly pirating copyrighted material and only a few percent to buying bootleg CDs & DVDs. Their response was no less catatonic than DeNiro in “Awakenings”.
These organizations next began suing individuals (sometimes elderly, minors and/or uninvolved parties) based on nothing more than IP addresses of internet accounts, creating more collateral damage than the Enola Gay and as much public distrust as Bernie Madoff. All this with a batting average lower than Michael Jordan’s stint with the White Sox.
The recent release of the RAND study is an articulate argument that counterfeiting is linked to organized crime and terrorism. While many headlines read “Online Piracy Linked to Terrorism”, the report’s only reference to file sharing was one tangential sentence on page 140 which states that Britain’s “Knock Off Nigel” campaign increased awareness that file sharing is wrong. The study made no other mention of file sharing, P2P/peer-to-peer networks, bit torrent or the Pirate Bay. So RAND states that counterfeiting is wrong and does not address the still most rampant act of IP theft worldwide: file sharing.
After having the opportunity to take my generous gem of free advice, the RIAA & MPAA chose instead to bank on the public’s ignorance. RIAA was named the Worst Company in America 2007 by the Consumerist over Halliburton, and was only saved from this shameful title in 2008 by the banking industry.
The RIAA & MPAA have more fans than any other industry. People love your product so much they are willing to steal it. Most of those people know it is wrong and feel guilty when discussing having done it. Only brainless enforcers coupled with inept public relations could mess up a relationship like this. Don’t get me wrong. I like you. But both organizations need to clean house and smarten up. My door is open.
Now I am going to finish my coffee.