The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) is a trade organization that was first formed in 1952. Its primary interest is the support and promotion of the music labels that are its members. Originally created to administer the technical standards of making vinyl records, it has since grown to become the major distributor of all legal recorded music made and sold in the United States.
The War Against Online Piracy
However, in recent years, the RIAA has focused its attention on one particular issue: online piracy. Its first major encounter was with Napster, a file sharing website that garnered mainstream attention in the early 2000s when it became involved in legal battles against the popular band, Metallica. Though Napster was eventually shut down, it didn’t signal the end of the problem. Instead, it inspired the rise of hundreds of similar music download sites and services that allowed people to download music without paying the royalties due to the artists.
Fact and Figures
- Since 1999, sales of music in theUnited Stateshave decreased by 53 percent, dropping from $14.6 billion to only $6.9 billion in 2010.
- In the period between 2004 and 2009, an estimated 30 billion songs were illegally shared and downloaded.
- Illegal downloads take up huge amounts of bandwidth; 17.5% in theUSand 24% around the world.
The SOPA Controversy and the Megaupload Shutdown
Earlier this year, the Internet exploded with outrage over aUnited Statesbill called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Opponents of the bill stated that it not only posed a threat to the freedom of speech, but it severely curtailed innovation as well. Numerous websites such as Reddit and Wikipedia initiated a service blackout in protest of the bill, raising greater awareness of the issue.
Another development that caused a lot of furor was the shutdown of Megaupload, a well-known file hosting service that allowed users to download copyrighted content for free. In retaliation, the hacker group Anonymous targeted the websites of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Justice Department, the RIAA and several others with a denial of service attack.
New Developments in the Market
Though the RIAA is quick to highlight the negative consequences of piracy on the music industry, there are those who are not so sympathetic to its cause. Most detractors proclaim that the group is more concerned about the finances of its members, which are the major music companies, than about the plight of the artists and various individuals who are involved in the creation of music.
But perhaps instead of fully concentrating all its efforts against piracy, the organization should also consider other means by which it can ensure the protection of intellectual property rights while still making money for the labels and musicians. For instance, the increasing popularity of subscription services such as Spotify and Rhapsody is introducing a new business model of distributing music. Furthermore, though people aren’t buying as many albums as they used to, downloads of music singles are steadily increasing in number through vendors like iTunes and Amazon.
How are you getting your music fix these days? What do you think will eventually happen to the industry if piracy isn’t contained?