It's hard to imagine the recording industry winning any major battles these days and it's amusing to observe them rejoicing -- apparently without irony -- at minor victories like the recent court ruling ordering the complete shutdown of LimeWire's P2P server. It's incredible to think that the Recording Industry Association of America believes shutting down one program will have even the suggestion of an impact on file sharing. LimeWire was one of many P2P programs and its former users will soon gravitate towards the several dozen other sites that allow free downloads. A spokesman for the RIAA, however, made a rather ominous statement suggesting that the ruling will "start to unwind the massive piracy machine." It has become pretty clear that record companies have become obsolete middlemen that need to either recognise the realities of the digital age or be phased out of music entirely, in which case I wouldn't miss them one bit.
LimeWire was providing people, along with dozens of other websites and networks, the opportunity to download files and copyrighted music. The RIAA had been involved in a court struggle with LimeWire for the past several years and on Oct. 26, 2010, an American court ruled that the company violated copyright laws and ordered it immediately shut down. Lime Group, who ran LimeWire, will likely be forced to pay the RIAA compensation for lost sales.
In reality, this is a struggle between an institution made obsolete by new technologies and consumers. Few people really care about the profits of record companies, though many do care about those of the artist. As a result, this is the card the RIAA is now playing. Of course, it's an outright lie: artists only get a small percentage of the money that comes from record sales and most of their profits come from touring. Speaking of which, ticket sales for concerts have been skyrocketing since the beginning of the decade (roughly coinciding with the advent of file-sharing). So, while it is true that CD sales are plummeting, the music industry as a whole is rapidly growing and the see LimeWire, page 11
only people losing money are the corporate executives in the recording industry.
I hope the death of the record company will come about as soon as possible -- it will simply be another step in the changing face of the music industry. The elimination of big-name, big-dollar labels will help level the playing field. Equality on the internet (which organizations like the RIAA are laughably attempting to threaten) will allow artists to market their work more effectively. If people want to buy music to support an artist, they're welcome to do so -- Radiohead released an album online for whatever amount listeners wanted to pay. If the band can take advantage of new technology and gain a following, it can get people to come to live shows. If there's one place where an unfettered market could work, it's on the internet.
The one issue is that the recording industry seems to have ambitions of stopping pirating in any form. Shutting LimeWire down was a minor event and several competitors will immediately pounce upon the opening, perhaps even increasing the amount of music pirated. Unless the record industry plans on shutting down the entire internet, we can be pretty comfortable it won't be successful in combating file sharing. In the meantime, we can hope the RIAA bankrupts itself pursuing pointless lawsuits against individual websites.