Image representing RIAA, Recording Industry As...

I’ll admit that I’m not the brightest guy in the world but it’s apparent even to me that suing your customers is a bad idea no matter what business you’re in.  When you’re in a business that is struggling due to a sea-change in the economic model under which you’ve operated, alienating the customer is tantamount to suicide.  And yet…Last week, a jury found someone named Jammie Thomas-Rasset liable for copyright infringement and ordered her to pay $80,000 for each of 24 tracks shared on Kazaa to the RIAA.  Using the normal splits places like iTunes pay to the artist, I think that’s about the dough the track would garner from 114,000 online sales.  Honestly, I’m pretty sure none of those tracks had 114,000 downloads from the copy she posted so the damages demanded seem very out of line with the actual potential damage done.  But that’s not really the issue.

Richard Marx , one of the artists whose tracks was posted, said it very well:

instead of nurturing the industry and doing their best to provide the highest quality of music to the fans, they predominantly chose to ream the consumer and fill their pockets.

He’s not particularly interested in collecting anything.  Another artist who was infringed, Moby, posted on his blog that

it’s better to be feared than respected doesn’t seem like such a sustainable business model when it comes to consumer choice.

I agree. While customers aren’t always perfect, you’d rather have them that not. What a different place the music industry would be now if the tools of Web 2.0 had been embraced and developed by the industry instead of being denied and litigated against.

Newspapers, network TV, the sports industry, and others are in the midst of some of the same fundamental changes as the music business.  The content they produce is not the issue.  How it’s consumed is, and that consumption has always been the basis for how the industries make money.  Let’s hope none of them are dumb enough to go down the same road as the RIAA.

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Filed under digital media, Helpful Hints, Huh?, Reality checks

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