Friday, June 19, 2009

RIAA awarded enough to keep members bathing in champagne and caviar through the year.

So the Recording Industry Association of America used its giant metal boot to squash another tiny bug when it sued and won an enormous judgement against a woman accused of distributing song files.

Jammie Thomas-Rasset was fined (approx.) $80,000 for each of the 24 songs she was accused of sharing on the Kazaa file-sharing network back in 2005. The RIAA says she had 1,700 music files in her public folder, which is more like $1,129 a song, but really, math is hard enough.

Now, I never understood the music file-sharing thing. I don't understand how the RIAA claims ownership of these files.

I thought that "fair use" was allowed for copyrighted works, and that fair use was understood to allow up to 10% of something to be copied. This could be wrong, but this is the way I understand it.

So if I rip a song from a CD into an mp3 file, I am using software to compress the original data into a much smaller file. Here's an example:

A song is 50,529 KB uncompressed. And when I convert it at a 96 Kbps bitrate (a poor quality bitrate, but still listenable), it comes out as a 3,439 KB mp3 file.

The software says it was compressed at a ratio of 14 to 1 to equal a file that is 7% of the original file.

So if my understanding of fair use is correct, how can distributing 7% of something be a violation?

I know that these are different file formats, blah, blah, blah, but still, how does the RIAA argue that a file that is only 7% of the original is a "copy"?

Maybe their position is that no one should be able to enjoy something without paying for it. For example, here is 7% of the Mona Lisa:

Some people might say that's a pretty significant copy. But I still don't understand it.

Anyway, here is the list of the 24 songs Thomas-Rasset was fined $1.9 million for sharing. I wonder how much of that money the performers will ever see.

- Guns N Roses "Welcome to the Jungle"; "November Rain"
- Vanessa Williams "Save the Best for Last"
- Janet Jackson "Let's Wait Awhile"
- Gloria Estefan "Here We Are"; "Coming Out of the Dark"; "Rhythm is Gonna
Get You"
- Goo Goo Dolls "Iris"
- Journey "Faithfully"; "Don't Stop Believing"
- Sara McLachlan "Possession"; "Building a Mystery"
- Aerosmith "Cryin'"- Linkin Park "One Step Closer"
- Def Leppard "Pour Some Sugar on Me"
- Reba McEntire "One Honest Heart"
- Bryan Adams "Somebody"
- No Doubt "Bathwater"; "Hella Good"; "Different People"
- Sheryl Crow "Run Baby Run"
- Richard Marx "Now and Forever"
- Destiny's Child "Bills, Bills, Bills"
- Green Day "Basket Case"

Now that she's lost her battle, I wonder if someone could post a few of these songs online in the form of political protest.

Like, for example, these titles could represent Thomas-Rasset's story of persecution by the RIAA:
- Sara McLachlan "Possession"
- Sheryl Crow "Run Baby Run"
- Destiny's Child "Bills, Bills, Bills"

And these could represent the pain and humiliation she feels by the accusations of music piracy:
- Guns N Roses "Welcome to the Jungle"
- Aerosmith "Cryin'"
- Green Day "Basket Case"

And of course, Gloria Estefan's hit could be altered into the "Recording Industry is Gonna Get You."

Would the "political protest" argument work: "No, your honor, I am not a music pirate. I am making a public statement of outrage against the Nazi tactics of the RIAA. What, your honor? What do you mean, 'I hope you brought your checkbook?'"

Probably not. And I don't have $560,000 to pay the RIAA when I lose the case.