January 14, 2004

I Get It [6:53 pm]

Somewhere today I read something about an RIAA police force, but didn’t understand it. Then I found this article: Music Industry Puts Troops in the Streets:

Quasi-legal squads raid street vendors

Though no guns were brandished, the bust from a distance looked like classic LAPD, DEA or FBI work, right down to the black “raid” vests the unit members wore. The fact that their yellow stenciled lettering read “RIAA” instead of something from an official law-enforcement agency was lost on 55-year-old parking-lot attendant Ceasar Borrayo.

The Recording Industry Association of America is taking it to the streets.

Even as it suffers setbacks in the courtroom, the RIAA has over the last 18 months built up a national staff of ex-cops to crack down on people making and selling illegal CDs in the hood.

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Andrew Orlowski’s Spin on the Latest UJ CD Sales Figures [8:50 am]

CD sales rocket in UK

CD sales rocketed 7.6 per cent in the United Kingdom last year, according to Music Week. 121 million CDs were sold, excluding compilations.

Music industry executives in the United States have cited falling CD sales as an excuse to intimidate music lovers and curtail ordinary computer users’ freedoms in their pursuit of file swappers. Critics counter that sales typically follow macroeconomic patterns, and fall during a downturn in the economy.

But the latest figures raise an interesting discussion point as to whether music industry intimidation actually repels legitimate buyers. The RIAA’s tactics in the United States - subpoenas, and now SWAT teams impersonating police officers - are intended to give the impression that sharing ‘illegally copied’ music carries a heavy risk. But sharing equals enjoyment, so how many people are actually wishing a plague on all their houses, and spending their money elsewhere?

The UK CD figures should also be carefully read by executives of online music download services. The US has seen a “goldrush for lemmings” towards low, or no-margin DRM music services. But last year shows that demand for unencumbered, higher quality music is booming.

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Challenge to Canada’s MP3 Player Levy [8:47 am]

Canadian MP3 player tax challenged

MP3 player manufacturers, including Apple Computer, Dell and Hewlett-Packard, are challenging a recent regulatory ruling in Canada that would impose an extra fee of as much as $25 on iPod-like digital music players.

The Copyright Board of Canada ruled in December that hard drive-based digital music players should be subject to fees aimed at compensating musicians, songwriters and record labels for copyright infringement. Similar fees are placed on blank audio tapes and CDs, and manufacturers typically pass on the costs to the consumer.

A group of retailers, including Wal-Mart Stores and Best Buy, also is appealing the decision, which will be heard by a federal court.

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Penn State’s P2P Music System Goes Live [8:42 am]

Penn State launches Napster music service Note that Penn State has a helpful aggregation of all their press releases on the subject. (Slashdot discussion: Penn State Launches Napster Music Service)

As spring semester classes got under way Monday at Penn State, more than 2,600 students had registered for the Napster 2.0 service, which comes free with their tuition. All 17,000 on-campus resident students are eligible to use it.

School officials said the new system, which offers about 500,000 songs to choose from, appeared to work flawlessly for the vast majority of users.

By Monday, more than 8,000 visits were logged on the Napster Web site devoted for use by Penn State students. For a fee, students also can burn music onto compact discs.

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