RIAA

No Platinum Albums in United States

There will be no Platinum certified albums in the United States this year, the first time since certification had been established in 1976.

Apparently even Disney’s “Frozen” soundtrack didn’t surpass the one million sales mark in the States, selling only just over 750,000 copies this year because of the popularity of music downloads.

Canada’s Gold and Platinum certification was altered to address this issue in 2008.

Prior to May 2008 Canadian album releases were given Platinum Status when they reached 100,000 sales. But this was reduced to 80,000.

Update : Taylor Swift managed to surpass a million sales with “1989” in the first week of November 2014.

Doom & Gloom ?

Debate has recently heated up in regards to the effects of peer to peer due to a report published by The American Assembly at Columbia University.

Since its publication in October, arguments on whether the technology is detrimental to the industry have been going back and forth, some claiming that the users of this technology buy more music whilst others claim they do not.

This study found that peer to peer users purchased 30% more music whilst RIAA proponents claim they spend pretty much that same amount as non peer to peer users on music.

This is only one of the numerous reports that found that peer to peer users buy more music, concert tickets and artist associated merchandise. And numerous members of the industry have responded to this information by consolidating their operations into media companies like Live Nation. But one should notice quite a few issues with the industry’s response.

One has to wonder why peer to peer is being targeted when it’s usage does not result in a loss of sales :

“The truth is that P2P users spend about the same on the core music categories as non-users, on this basis. P2P users spend a bit more on digital downloads and subscriptions but it would be a tough argument that there is much of a difference. Six dollars extra on tracks is hardly half an album.” – NPD Group Blog Entry, dated October 18th, 2012

You will notice the last sentence on that statement emphasizes the industry’s preference when it comes to sales.

They prefer the sale of albums. And any argument in regards to concert ticket and merchandising sales fall on deaf ears because they haven’t secured those sources of income.

“There is a significant difference in spend on merchandise and concert tickets, where P2P users spend nearly twice as much as non-users. Are we saying that P2P file sharing promotes T-shirt sales, or show attendance? Of course not; that would be silly. What it says is that the people who download music illegally are generally more engaged in music, so they go to shows and they wear their favorite artists on their shirts. I have news for you: they would be doing this if P2P never existed.”

P2P is used to preview music for free and the operative word, free, also applies to new technologies that the blog entry also acknowledges.

The average P2P downloader spends $42 on these categories of music. No contest- P2P users spend more. Guess what- people who follow artists on Facebook spend more than that, as do people who use Twitter; and those who subscribe to Rhapsody or Pandora spend a whole lot more than any of these groups.

We are no longer in the late 90’s or early 2000’s. Numerous licensed services now offer free music, some of which do not require the installation of questionable software and/or the mass storing of music files. And individuals will not care in regards to the source of this music because it’s free.

The problem of course if that the music industry is slow to adapt and have not licensed their complete repertoire to the new services.

The labels failed to negotiate and obtain the rights to older recordings so people continue to use P2P for recordings that are not available for download through the legal services, some of which are not available on or have yet to be made available on compact disc.

These distribution issues are also what is driving people to use peer to peer networks to obtain films that are not available on or have yet to be made available on DVDs that are compatible with their home theater equipment.

Peer to peer services will likely be used less and less by people who are looking for music that can be found on the other free services but the above aforementioned rights issues will keep peer to peer alive until they are addressed.

The MPAA & RIAA On Private Copying

The Motion Picture Association of America and Recording Industry Association of America have issued a join statement against the circumvention of copy protection for private copying.

On page 47 of their February 10th, 2012 statement the associations claim that there is no need for an exemption (in the States) because copies are available for purchase for numerous devices and “the inability to access a work on the device of one’s choosing is a mere inconvenience that does not justify an exemption“.

At the moment Canadians are not eligible to obtain “low cost” copies from most of the DVD/Blu-Ray programs mentioned in the American report.

We do have access to some digital copy titles. But these are generally included in the more expensive film packages (i.e “combo packs“) and many of these digital copy titles are time limited.

I believe digital copies with expiry dates are unfair to the consumer, who purchases the right to copy the material to a computer or portable device.

The ability to perform a digital copy is prominent on the packaging of these “combo packs” so it only logical to conclude that the consumer sees this ability as a feature and has chosen to purchase these “combo packs” for the ability, at extra cost.

That said, a nominal cost to perform a private copy would probably be the best option for the consumer.

Software is the best option for individuals who wish to make multiple private copies. But the entertainment industry should probably consider advertisement funded private copies to reduce the cost of a private copy after an initial purchase of a DVD or Blu-Ray disc by the consumer.

Whilst downloading a private copy a consumer could be shown numerous commercials for products or upcoming film and television features, like those found at the beginning of most DVDs and Blu-Ray discs.

Another option would be to offer Canadian consumers free downloads from existing services, thus promoting the sale of paid products on those services. There are numerous services available to Canadians including Bearshare and iMesh, who offer music videos, and iTunes and Netflix, who offer music and film downloads.

Some digital copies are available from these services and I suspect cloud services will become the consumer’s choice when it comes to private copying in the future, as it enables consumers to download or stream content on numerous devices.

RIAA Responds To Protests

Well, a RIAA spokesperson had responded to the SOPA and PIPA protests in the NY Times. And of course, it’s the same old rhetoric.

Apparently he thinks everyone that opposed the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act were either severely misinformed or want everything for free.

Of course RIAA are doing their best to “inform” people of their spin, that the industry is suffering. And by “inform” I mean suing Americans and foreigners willy nilly. But it is obvious that the public is not buying their claims.

For two decades every expert in the industry has stated the music industry would shift from physical formats to digital. But they resisted, to their detriment, and wish to continue resisting even when international music sales are growing substantially.

It’s obvious that they’re crying foul on behalf of the manufacturers, who will be unable to capitalize on format shifts in the past.

These manufacturers, many of which are owned by the labels, profited from format shifting, when people upgraded from vinyl to 8-track, from 8-track to cassette and from cassette to CD. And if they had their way they’d get a royalty whenever someone copies a recording to a device.

This is an industry that thinks that because you aren’t paying to copy your legally purchased mp3s to your mp3 player that you are a “thief”. That you are just like those pirates that mass produce CDs and DVDs and sell them in pawn shops, farmer’s markets and online.

No ? Then why are these people lobbying the current government in Canada to disallow private copying of copy protected works with Bill C-11 ? Why are attempting to push a levy mp3 players in Canada ?

We’ve heard the excuse that some people use the internet to download mp3 files illegally. But have they ever produced a study proving the majority of these illegally downloaded recordings end up on mp3 players ?

Of course not.

They don’t want to distinguish previewing and private copying from illegal downloads. They’d rather just use one word, “infringement“, to gloss over the issues and call pretty much everything piracy to get their way with the technologically inept politicians.

Some members of the industry are also currently attempting to obtain royalties for the 30 second previews retailers posts online in Canada, in order to disqualify music downloads as “fair dealing” research for Canadians.

The Stop Online Piracy Act, Protect IP Act and Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement impose RIAA‘s views in regards to fair dealing and private copying on foreign nations.

They circumvent the democratic processes of nations who have established their own legislation on these subjects and an undue influence in regards to policy is imposed on nations that are undergoing copyright reforms.

It is obvious that the inflexibility of ATCA in regards to fair dealing and copy protection is causing the current government in Canada to refuse to alter Bill C-11 in accordance to the public’s wishes.

This proves that our political process has been polluted by foreign interests and SOPA/Protect IP like legislation in the United States could further undermine Canada’s democracy and sovereignty.

When Bill C-11 was introduced as Bill C-32, the Canadian Bar Association openly questioned the workability and purpose of some of the provisions, including the fair dealing and technological protection measure provisions.

They also questioned the need for additional legislation to address unauthorized distribution on the internet, so there is clearly a disconnect in-between the people of Canada and the legislation’s proponents.

This is clearly the case in the United States as well.

RIAA Issues Statement About Megaupload

The Recording Industry Association of America issued a statement about Megaupload yesterday on their blog.

According to this statement, they believe that this raid will result in more traffic towards the legal services :

“According to the NPD Group, Limewire users left by the millions in the months after the shutdown… Digital music sales that had been flagging jumped in the month immediately after the Limewire shutdown, and have remained stronger ever since… When Billboard looked at the data after the Limewire shutdown it said “The spike in sales was immediate, noticeable and lasting.”

Unfortunately this raid has resulted in concerns about legitimate services being removed from the net because of the actions of the service’s users according to Threatpost.com security blogger Dennis Fisher.

Limewire – What Next ?

As you may have heard, Limewire lost their case this week in the United States.

The Recording Industry Association of America had filed a lawsuit against them in the state of New York on August 4th, 2006, claiming they facilitated copyright violations with their file sharing software, by not taking the appropriate measures to prevent such activity. And on Wednesday the 12th of May, Judge Kimba Wood of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled against Limewire.

Of course the recording industry praised this ruling, both in the United States and in Canada. But could this all have been prevented ?

On February 12th, 2010 Limewire CEO George Searle posted an entry on the company’s blog stating that Limewire had been “working diligently with labels, publishers and artists to introduce a full range of commercial services that harness, rather than alienate, music fans”.

The company had signed an agreement with independent music distributor CD Baby on July 1st, 2009 to sell recordings from their 240,000 plus artists to Americans via their online store.

But of course Mitch Bainwo, RIAA’s Chairman and CEO, claimed that Limewire had “thumbed its nose at the law and creators” in RIAA’s May 12th, 2010 press release on the ruling, because they failed to both negotiate licenses with the labels and impose filters on their peer to peer transfers.

By finding LimeWire’s CEO personally liable, in addition to his company, the court has sent a clear signal to those who think they can devise and profit from a piracy scheme that will escape accountability

Yes, the distribution of copyrighted material using LimeWire’s software was illegal. But whether it was a “piracy scheme” is debatable because Limewire would not have even bothered to warn its users of the implications of such violations nor would they have implemented any content filtering if they were in it to profit on the back of copyright owners.

RIAA obviously believes that the multiple statements and warnings found in LimeWire‘s end-user license agreement and copyright documentation are tantamount to lip service, along with the basic content filtering. But I believe the consumer, those that buy music or purposely use services where the copyright holder is compensated, do heed to these warnings and do use these filters.

Personally I have avoided peer to peer software because of the spam files and possibility of infection by malicious software. But now that LimeWire has partnered with AVG Technologies I may consider using the program. But only if I know the artists and copyright holders are compensated.

I believe LimeWire could distribute funds derived from advertisements and Livewire Pro software sales to copyright owners. And this could result in further partnerships with wireless device manufacturers, who could stream content and targeted advertising on their devices.

But of course we’ll need to wait until June 1st to know what the monetary penalties and damages will be, the original figure being $150,000 per occurrence of an illegally traded file according to Betanews. And then there’s the possibility of an appeal or settlement.

Here are some interesting links until then :

Arista Records LLC et al v. Lime Wire LLC et al

Press Releases

Interesting Reading