The Guardian’s rock critic, Alexis Petridis, joins the chorus of those who say the recording industry’s tactics are foolish at best:
- The industry has always been full of bright ideas – eight-track tapes, plastering records with skull and crossbones logos that warned home taping was “killing music”, signing Mariah Carey for $80m at precisely the point her records stopped selling, etc – but this one is truly a dazzler. The Recording Industry Association of America has announced that it intends to start filing lawsuits against individual consumers who download MP3 files illegally: according to one legal expert, each downloader could be “sued for several hundred million dollars in damages”. The British Phonographic Industry is making similar noises. “Litigation can’t be ruled out in this country,” the BPI’s Sarah Roberts claimed this week.
Back in the States, Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and budding “patriotic songwriter” – his fans include legendary music critic George Bush Snr – has jumped into the debate with exactly the sort of subtlety we’ve come to expect from rightwing US senators. Hatch thinks that hundred-million-dollar lawsuits are too good for them. “I’m all for destroying their machines,” he thundered recently.
He must know that the majority of people involved in downloading music illegally are teenage pop fans. The record companies certainly do, even giving them their own soubriquet, “playground pirates”. What better way of giving an ailing business a shot in the arm than by marching a load of 13-year-old Busted fans into court, ruining their families financially, then smashing their computers in front of them? Perhaps the music industry has simply cracked under the mental strain involved in ignoring the proverbial elephant in its living room. No music fan would rather have an MP3 file than an “official” CD.
….For the music industry, the whole point of introducing CDs in the early 80s was not to create a more durable format with better sound quality, but to milk as much money out of the public as possible. CDs are cheaper to manufacture than records (they cost 50p each), but sell for more in the shops.
This is not news. Everybody realises that CDs should be cheaper, from people who know the background to teenyboppers who realise their pocket money doesn’t stretch that far. The music industry is too stubborn and greedy to do anything about it. Instead, they’re happier to propagate lurid scare stories about the onset of a second dark age and haul fans into court: architects of their own destruction, hastening their demise.