I have known many downloaders who claim that if they want to buy an album, they will download it first to see for themselves if they truly like it. After all, why spend money on something that they won’t use or enjoy? If the album is deemed worthy, they will buy it. Unfortunately this does not fit in with the RIAA’s business model, as many of their profits in the past have been based on people buying CDs that they ended up hating. In almost any other industry, consumers can sample the product first to see if they like it, or if they buy it and dislike it, they can return it for a full refund. Not so with CDs. Many profits are made from people purchasing music they would never have bought had they heard the whole album first. In this manner the record industry has been cheating consumers for years, and only recently – mostly thanks to file sharing – can a consumer hear the entire album before buying it, rather than just the few singles they hear on the radio. Perhaps the industry’s 8% drop in sales is due to this phenomenon of people now buying only the music they want, rather than something they take a gamble on.
After reading your article, Ms. Hamilton, I am still confused as to why you believe college students are the appropriate targets. You never clearly state what it is about students in particular that makes them as guilty as they are made out to be, or that they are more worthy of prosecution than anyone else.
It is a cruel paradox: The RIAA is attempting to strike fear into the people who make up most of their consumers, as if saying that not only are students the only culprits, but they are also wealthy enough to pay the price. A ridiculous concept, considering that the only thing the RIAA will get out of suing students is a few thousand dollars (which will probably not even end up in the pockets of the artists), a mass of boycotters who now have that debt as well as the debt of their student loans, and a rebellious generation ready to defy the law. This is where your argument fails, Ms. Hamilton.
Students will not “back off of illegal copying once they learn that the free ride was an illusion.” Because in fact, the “free ride” is no illusion…rather the idea that the music industry can survive based on the standards of old technology is the illusion. File sharing has become such a part of our communication, our way of life, and yes – even the building of our culture – that its influence and integration into the technology of the future can no longer be ignored. The RIAA cannot sue thousands upon thousands of file sharers, it is impossible. Rather than dissuading users from sharing music, there will be more users in years to come, bringing the number of file sharers into the millions and the files being shared into the billions. Do you not remember the national alcohol prohibition of the 1920s? It was believed that by banning alcohol for public consumption, the government would be able to cut down on crime, and create a better quality of life for its citizens. The result was an outbreak of crime for over a decade, and the amendment became a terrible failure. The psychology around file sharing works in much the same way: to make such an important thing out of prohibiting it is to foster a community that only strengthens their resolve to combat what they see as unfair bullying. The only thing for the RIAA to do is to invent a way in which to make a profit on file sharing and promote its use, rather than trying to crush an aspect of technology that will never disappear.
Click here for page 6