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RIAA criticized over anti-piracy tactics
Published: 2007-08-29

With the start of the school year, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has launched its latest attempt to stem the casual copying and sharing of digital music, but an opponent of the music industry's strong-arm tactics has stated, in a study released on Wednesday, that the initiatives have had little impact on peer-to-peer file sharing.

The study -- published by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a digital-rights group and an outspoken critic of the RIAA's tactics -- notes that since the music industry first filed lawsuits against 261 consumers in September 2003, the group's attorneys have sued or threatened legal actions against more than 20,000 individuals. Yet, peer-to-peer file sharing has nearly trebled to 9.4 million users this year, from 3.8 million users in August 2003, according to data attributed to media tracker Big Champagne.

"There is a better way," the EFF argued in its report, advocating "a voluntary collective licensing regime as a mechanism that would fairly compensate artists and rightsholders for P2P file sharing."

The report comes as college students return to school, and two weeks after the RIAA announced that it had sent 503 pre-litigation letters to students at 58 colleges and universities. The letters attempt to convince students to negotiate a deal with the music industry for less severe penalties.

The RIAA refuted that its legal initiatives were not working, pointing to studies that found 73 percent of consumers now recognize that making music available from a computer for free is illegal, up from 37 percent in 2003. In a press backgrounder provided to SecurityFocus, the organization also pointed to a study by market researcher NPD that showed only a modest increase in number of households downloading music from peer-to-peer networks -- 7.8 million in March 2007, compared to 6.9 million in April 2003 -- while pointing out that broadband adoption has more than doubled.

Yet, revenue from U.S. sound recordings sank to $11.5 billion in 2006, its lowest point in 10 years, down from a peak of $14.6 billion in 1999, according to the RIAA's Consumer Trends report. Moreover, the music industry has had some setbacks in pursuing legal cases and has been ordered by at least one judge to pay the attorney's fees of the defendant.

Legal downloads of digital music, of which a significant portion is mobile ringtones and downloads, rose 73 percent in 2006 and accounted for 16.1 percent of music industry revenues.

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Posted by: Robert Lemos
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