January 16, 2004

As the RIAA Goes to War, the EFF Runs Away

LA Weekly: Music Industry Puts Troops in the Streets

Though no guns were brandished, the bust from a distance looked like classic LAPD, DEA or FBI work, right down to the black "raid" vests the unit members wore. The fact that their yellow stenciled lettering read "RIAA" instead of something from an official law-enforcement agency was lost on 55-year-old parking-lot attendant Ceasar Borrayo.

The Recording Industry Association of America is taking it to the streets.

Even as it suffers setbacks in the courtroom, the RIAA has over the last 18 months built up a national staff of ex-cops to crack down on people making and selling illegal CDs in the hood.

and if starting their own little, quite likely illegal, terror squad wasn't bad enough, the RIAA goes out and makes it clear just how racist they are:

"A large percentage [of the vendors] are of a Hispanic nature," Langley said. "Today he’s Jose Rodriguez, tomorrow he’s Raul something or other, and tomorrow after that he’s something else. These people change their identity all the time."

Say what? Not even going to comment on that one.

Then of course to top it all off with a cherry, the RIAA's biggest opponent the EFF condones these foul tactics:

"The process of confiscating bootleg CDs from street vendors is exactly what the RIAA should be doing," said Jason Schultz, a staff attorney for the San Francisco–based Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

Now that's apparently a misquote and Schultz corrects it on his blog. But honestly his answer doesn't make me particularly happy. Schultz and the EFF draw a broad line between digital file sharing and the alternative networks of CD distribution. And they have valid legal reasons for it.

But really what is the difference between the two? One is structural, P2P file sharing involves a computer and broadband connection while alternative CD networks involve physical goods, that are copied not stolen. The other difference between the two is socioeconomic. P2P is a middle class act, requiring expensive equipment and connections. The extralegal CD distribution networks operate in far less privileged spaces. And they represent a valid attempt by these communities to route around the restrictions the RIAA is attempting to impose. But since it doesn't involve extensive computer use the EFF can't be bothered to defend.

Just another reminder that techno-utopianism doesn't scale beyond the short confines of tech culture...

[article link via bIPlog]

Posted by Abe at January 16, 2004 09:39 AM



A second large diference.
p2p sharing is done by end users.
CD bootlegging in this respect is done as a business for a profit.

I see that difference as being included in the distribution structural difference, but I should have written it out clearer. Worth exploring more anyway.

For one there is plenty of profit in P2P, the big two Kaazaa are Limewire both for profit companies, and the isps are making a killing off of broadband demand driven in part by file sharing.

The second thing to look at is capital outlay. The bootleggers are making a profit, but its not much. These are CDs that retail for $5. That cost needs to pay for the manufacturing, packaging and distribution. Because of the capital outlay involved in moving physical goods most links in the chain are taking profits. The structure of the manufacturing and distribution network itself is what's responsible for their being more profit in that system then in P2P.