Time #045; not lawsuits #045;will free RIAA of piracy

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 12, 2003

Tribune editorial staff

When will the Recording Industry Association of America realize it is not going to scare people away from downloading songs off the Internet?

Earlier this week, the RIAA filed 261 lawsuits against people who had downloaded and made available for sharing, more than 1,000 copyrighted songs. Each offense - or each song - carries a fine of from $750 to $150,000, although reportedly the RIAA is willing to settle for around $3,000 per person. These lawsuits against may be just the first among thousands as an estimated 60 million people have downloaded songs off the Internet, half of them teens.

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Copyright protection is important. Musicians, just like everyone else, deserve to be paid for their work. However, the music industry needs to find another way to

deal with its largely youthful audience. It's not good public relations for the industry when The Wall Street Journal runs a headline, as it did Wednesday, asking, "Will the music industry sue your kid?"

The 12-to-22 age group buys the most CDs, but unfortunately for the recording industry, it is also the group that steals the most music off the Internet. The industry blames music-sharing over the Internet for a 26-percent drop in CD sales since 1999, about the time file-sharing became popular.

A change of medium may be the answer. The industry has made the transition from vinyl LPs to cassette tapes to CDs, why not include the Internet as an option?

The Apple iTunes Music Store, which charges 99 cents per download, has shown it can be done.

The World Wide Web could potentially be the most lucrative medium yet, because it requires no manufactured material. Let's face it, most people are downloading songs off the Internet because they do not want to shell out $15 to $20 for a CD that has only one, maybe two songs they really like. Sure, it would cost them some money, but not too many people would complain about paying a buck a song.

Time and technology will likely resolve the problem of song piracy, not lawsuits.