How do you measure the success or failure of the RIAA? (I have a few ideas).

I personally see the RIAA as a massive landgrab. Primarily, they attempt to curry favorable treatment from legislators, and subvert traditional aspects of copyright law via infinite extensions. They win the passage of favorable laws against consumer fair use and technology development, all the while avoiding legitimate economic competition.

In some arenas, the RIAA has been extremely successful in "framing the issues" for debate. Think about Napster, P2P, etc. There was hardly any discussion on the refusal of the music labels to address the growing demand for internet based digital music; Instead, the industry chose to placate offline retailers. Their poor business judgment all but ensured the rise of P2P. We haven’t even broached radio consolidation, formulaic product, or the over-emphasis on mega hits over the long tail.

Yet in terms of this debate, one must concede the RIAA has successsfully defined the terms of arguement. For example, consider this December 14 WSJ article by Ethan Smith the improvement in Warner music’s financial condition:

"Warner Music Group posted a narrower loss for the 10 months ended Sept. 30, but the company’s continuing red ink underscores the difficulties, such as rampant piracy, facing the global music business. "

The default belief system is that its "piracy," and not decades of a mediocre (and often flawed) business model — rather poorly executed at that — which is the root of all their problems. Recall that the same tactic was used about home taping — it was killing the music business in the 70s.

From a PR perspective, the RIAA has been extremely effective at framing the debate. "Piracy" seems to be the focus of all discussion. All other issues — price fixing, lack of comeptition, corruption,  cheating their own artists, etc., are mostly ignored.

The one area where the RIAA seems to do poorly, desptie all the noise they make about it, is in litigation. Consider the following from Christopher Null of Mobile PC Mag:

The RIAA Lost Every Lawsuit in 2004

Lots of stories get written when the Recording Industry Association of America sues people, but not much gets written about the aftermath of those suits.

There should be: In the last 12 months, the RIAA lost a landmark suit against Grokster (essentially legalizing peer-to-peer software), lost a suit to Verizon (holding that it did not have to provide names of its subscribers who the RIAA wanted to sue), and has yet to actually win against any of the thousands of individuals it has sued in court (some of the cases have been settled out of court, most are still pending). Suddenly, the RIAA isn’t looking so much as devastating as it does merely pathetic.

Still, while the RIAA is no longer the legal darling that successfully shut down Napster, it’s done an enormous amount of damage to the technology world (not to mention basic freedom) since it launched this crusade, and the group is far from finished. But here’s hoping some intelligent judges, tech-savvy lawmakers, and an activist public will continue to fight the power in 2005.   

-Christopher Null via boing boing

Truly incredible. But perhaps the best way to judge whether the RIAA is successful or not comes from their own site:

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is the trade group that represents the U.S. recording industry. Its mission is to foster a business and legal climate that supports and promotes our members’ creative and financial vitality . . . In support of this mission, the RIAA works to protect intellectual property rights worldwide and the First Amendment rights of artists; conduct consumer industry and technical research; and monitor and review state and federal laws, regulations and policies.

So how successful is the RIAA?

By their own measures, they have achieved some of their goals — at least in the short term. They have moved industry friendly legislation forward. And as mentioned above, they have successfully framed the debate over P2P and other new technologies.

Over the longer haul, however, they have turned their industry into one universally disliked by its clients and artists, alienating a huge percentage of their consumers; They have missed many many business opportunities and focused on the wrong issues, overemphasizing the glam of P2P litigation, over the nitty gritty hard work of counterfeit enforcement. Lastly, they have failed to adapt to the rapid pace of technological changes.

If their goal is to "support their members’ financial vitality," than we will not fully know the answer to this question for some time to come. But I have a sneaking suspicion that, without a significant shift, the answer will be not very well.

.

Sources:
The Long Tail
Chris Anderson
Wired Magazine, October 2004

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html

Warner Music Posts Narrower Loss
ETHAN SMITH
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, December 14, 2004; Page B6

http://online.wsj.com/article/1,,SB110295997209698620,00.html

Best Sign that the Legal System Just Might Work: The RIAA Lost Every Lawsuit in 2004
Mobile PC Mag, 10:40 AM – Monday, December 6 2004
Christopher Null

http://www.mobilepcmag.com/#RIAA

Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)
About Us

http://www.riaa.com/about/default.asp

Category: Music, Web/Tech

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

13 Responses to “Is the RIAA successful or not?”

  1. Catching my eye: morning A through Z

    Here’s what caught my eye this morning: The Big Picture evalutes the success of the RIAA. Scroll around on this blog. He’s got a lot of great stuff. Somebody’s finally noticing the dog in the manger. Kevin Drum of Washington…

  2. Catching my eye: morning A through Z

    Here’s what caught my eye this morning: The Big Picture evalutes the success of the RIAA. Scroll around on this blog. He’s got a lot of great stuff. Somebody’s finally noticing the dog in the manger. Kevin Drum of Washington…

  3. Catching my eye: morning A through Z

    Here’s what caught my eye this morning: The Big Picture evaluates the success of the RIAA. Scroll around on this blog. He’s got a lot of great stuff. Somebody’s finally noticing the dog in the manger. Kevin Drum of Washington…

  4. Catching my eye: morning A through Z

    Here’s what caught my eye this morning: The Big Picture evaluates the success of the RIAA. Scroll around on this blog. He’s got a lot of great stuff. Somebody’s finally noticing the dog in the manger. Kevin Drum of Washington…

  5. How much is the RIAA helping the music industry?

    In terms of framing the debate and influencing the legislative branch of the government, pretty well:the RIAA has successsfully defined the terms of arguement. For example, consider this December 14 WSJ article by Ethan Smith [about] the improvement in…

  6. Barry, nicely done. I totally agree on all counts. I have written about RIAA’s success in PR, framing the issue, and oh yeah, pissing off millions of music fans. But that’s about all they’ve won. There still are a number of us fighting for consumer rights and tech innovation. Thanks for your support!

    Marc Freedman
    P2P Weblog, http://p2p-weblog.com/
    DiaRIAA, http://diariaa.com/

  7. XTremeBlog says:

    Carnival of the Capitalists

    Welcome to this week’s Carnival of the Capitalists, here at XTremeBlog. I hope you’ll be back to visit this place from time to time when there is no carnival to draw your attention. We post about everything from hardcore talk of programming, to bas…

  8. Australia’s Music Industry Piracy Investigations == Scumbags

    Australia’s Music Industry Piracy Investigations’ group is a bunch of scumbags: The music industry maintains that Sharman, the maker of the Kazaa peer-to-peer software, is owned by several companies through a trust fund registered in the Pacific…

  9. Australia’s Music Industry Piracy Investigations == Scumbags

    Australia’s Music Industry Piracy Investigations’ group is a bunch of scumbags: The music industry maintains that Sharman, the maker of the Kazaa peer-to-peer software, is owned by several companies through a trust fund registered in the Pacific…

  10. Australia’s Music Industry Piracy Investigations == Scumbags

    Australia’s Music Industry Piracy Investigations’ group is a bunch of scumbags: The music industry maintains that Sharman, the maker of the Kazaa peer-to-peer software, is owned by several companies through a trust fund registered in the Pacific…

  11. Australia’s Music Industry Piracy Investigations == Scumbags

    Australia’s Music Industry Piracy Investigations’ group is a bunch of scumbags: The music industry maintains that Sharman, the maker of the Kazaa peer-to-peer software, is owned by several companies through a trust fund registered in the Pacific…

  12. Australia’s Music Industry Piracy Investigations == Scumbags

    Australia’s Music Industry Piracy Investigations’ group is a bunch of scumbags: The music industry maintains that Sharman, the maker of the Kazaa peer-to-peer software, is owned by several companies through a trust fund registered in the Pacific…

  13. Is the RIAA Successful – Absolutely

    Barry Ritzholtz has excellent commentary in this entry at his blog at The Big Picture. He writes accurately about RIAA’s success in framing the issue, which includes government, media, and public opinion. Yet this is only the second form of…