The RIAA has an investigative force seeking out CD pirates on the mean streets of the nation:
- 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.
The result has been a growing number of scenes like the one played out in Silver Lake just before Christmas, during an industry blitz to combat music piracy.
Borrayo attends to a parking lot next to the landmark El 7 Mares fish-taco stand on Sunset Boulevard. To supplement his buck-a-car income, he began, in 2003, selling records and videos from a makeshift stand in front of the lot.
In a good week, Borrayo said, he might unload five or 10 albums and a couple DVDs at $5 apiece. Paying a distributor about half that up-front, he thought he’d lucked into a nice side business.
The RIAA saw it differently. Figuring the discs were bootlegs, a four-man RIAA squad descended on his stand a few days before Christmas and persuaded the 4-foot-11 Borrayo to hand over voluntarily a total of 78 discs. It wasn't a tough sell.
"They said they were police from the recording industry or something, and next time they’d take me away in handcuffs," he said through an interpreter. Borrayo says he has no way of knowing if the records, with titles like Como Te Extrano Vol. IV - Musica de los 70's y 80's, are illegal, but he thought better of arguing the point.
The RIAA acknowledges it all - except the notion that its staff presents itself as police. [LA Weekly]
As heavy-handed as all this may be - and surely it is inappropriate for the "squad" to to leave any doubt that they are not connected to the government in any way - this is a much more appropriate use of RIAA time and resources than suing customers for file sharing. Despite semi-sympathetic figures like Mr. Borrayo, manufacturing and selling illegal copies of CDs for profit is real "piracy," and unlike sharing online files which may or may not impact the sale of physical CDs, the sale of pirated CDs is an unambiguous bite out of legitimate industry profits.