The recording industry successfully sued Jammie Thomas for damages stemming from illegally downloading music and sharing files with others. The industry asserts the $220,000 judgment sends a strong message to file-sharers that there are going to be costly consequences for violating the law, but the net effect says that isn’t the case.
Thomas doesn’t have $220,000, but I’ll bet she has friends who will gladly download on her behalf. If the industry’s point is to stop illegal downloading and recoup losses, this simply isn’t the way to go about it.
Industry tracking shows a whopping 7.8 million households used file-sharing programs in March 2007 to download music, an increase of almost one million households since April 2003. There are 2.61 people in the average American household, and this means a potential 20 million people or more could be downloading music. With less than 30,000 people on the industry’s hit list, an illegal file-sharer has a better chance of winning the lottery than of being caught, much less sued, by the recording industry.
The overwhelming odds against the industry doesn’t mean they don’t have a case — violating copyright is not only illegal, it’s unethical — but it does mean they’re currently going down the least effective and most costly road possible in an effort to recoup losses and discourage file-sharing.
For the file-sharer, there isn’t anything cooler than free music, but there is something worse than the remote possibility of being sued for downloading free music: no new music to download.
People boycott companies all the time. The record industry need only turn it around: boycott the people. If you’ve got enough money to create and maintain something as costly as a track-n-sue department, you’ve got enough money to stop putting music on the market for a year.
The outcry from those who legally purchase music will be difficult to quiet, but remember the motivation of those who legally purchase versus the motivation of those who illegally download. Those who legally purchase music already have what they want: the music. Those who illegally download music will not have what they want: the ability to get new music free of charge.
In that year’s time, introduce the concept of rewarding those who paid for their music. Give away free tickets to concerts with the proof of purchase of an already existing CD. Mark the proof so it can’t be used again. Let the ticket stubs get them free merchandise and/or into other music-related events.
Don’t give in to the economical temptation to raise ticket prices; rather, watch ticket sales skyrocket. Double the number of smaller venues and this will not only sell more tickets, it will also keep your artists busy doing what they do best.
The loudest protests will come from the very people you’re trying so hard to find. That they’ll willingly identify themselves will make them ripe for the picking, a benefit your track-n-sue department will no doubt find time-saving and cost-effective.
By the time you start putting music back out on the market, file-sharing will have imploded, and only those who legally purchased music in the first place will have survived the glitch.
Good luck, and don’t forget my favorite artist is Xavier Naidoo when you start handing out free concert tickets.