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Feedback: An open letter to the RIAA

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Taylor Kingsbury, Staff Writer

Taylor Kingsbury, Staff Writer

Dear Recording Industry Association of America,

I recently read about lawsuits you have levied against four college students who participated in the illegal distribution of recorded music by creating file-sharing services.

I would like to commend you for your swift and severe reaction to this heinous and despicable act. Considering that a $98 lawsuit would be sufficient to crush the average college student, the $98-billion your fine organization is seeking is an excess that should send a message to similarly-minded criminals who seek to steal revenue from major record labels who so desperately need it.

Treating these scoundrels like the dregs of society they are is the first step toward thwarting others from following them down the path of crime, and perhaps helping these four students turn their lives around. I can only hope that illegal site-runners like Daniel Peng, the 17-year old Princeton sophomore named in one of your lawsuits, will regard this punishment as the impetus they need to get their lives headed in the right direction.

I also read the informative articles on your Web site regarding the costs of producing an audio CD. Your figures indicate that the majority of these costs are related to the marketing and exposure of an artist, and that only 10 percent of the CDs released generate a profit. This article also informed me that the $20 standard on mass-produced CDs is actually used to offset the revenue lost by the 90 percent of recordings that do not turn a profit.

I think if the public were more aware of this policy, individuals would be less apt to complain about the price tag on CDs they purchase. After all, it is our fault for not supporting all of the artists you represent, and if more of us had bought the last Papa Roach album, we probably wouldn’t have to pay $20 for the new Deftones record.

It is well-documented that recorded music sales have decreased in recent years, and it is clear from your arguments that downloading is the direct cause of this slump. Since prominent artists like Avril Lavigne and 50 Cent are clearly artistic geniuses, it is painfully obvious that the quality of the product you market is unquestionably not a factor contributing to the downward slide of record sales.

Your organization is correct: Why would anyone go to the store and buy a CD when they can simply get the track listing elsewhere, log onto a file sharing site, sift through countless listings for the same song, wait 45 minutes to download the tune they want, repeat these steps 12 times to get every song on the album, print out the cover art off another site, upload a program that converts from MP3 to CD, put a CD burner in their computer, and spend an hour sequencing and burning the CD?

The ease with which we steal music is compounded by the fact that the average user only gets cut off from a transaction a few times before successfully downloading a track. Additionally, it usually only takes a few times downloading the same song to secure a version with good sound quality, no static interference and with the song in its entirety.

This simplistic method is costing your labels millions, and I sincerely hope now that you have identified the problem, we will see even more severe crackdowns on this lewd and rampant sharing of music.

But, the real reason I am writing is because I feel that, while the RIAA is adequately prosecuting the pirates who plunder the internet for free music, your organization has only scratched the surface of the numerous problems that are contributing to the decline of CD sales. Downloaders are not the only individuals costing you money. Since you are enacting such swift justice on them, I think it would be prudent to duly prosecute other offenders as well.

We must also issue stiff penalties against those who own and use CD recording devices of any kind. House to house searches would be the best method for identifying these perpetrators, and I’m sure since your organization is the most important in the world, you will have adequate means to bypass any sort of constitutional rights that such searches may negate.

Stores that carry used CDs should also be harshly dealt with. Used CDs not only persuade consumers not to buy new $20 units, they allow businesses to keep all of the profit, since these businesses purchase such discs from other consumers, not from the record label who issued the recording.

Lastly, we must identify the garage bands around the world and penalize them for creating music. After all, musicians are consumers who do not have to sift through dozens of units to find a sound that moves them. They can merely create the music themselves, thus depriving your industry of vast revenue. We must stop these horrible people from making music, and teach them the slogan on the RIAA battle flag: “Music is not to be enjoyed or explored, merely mindlessly consumed.”

I know that all of us have contributed to this climate, and when I think of all the money I have deprived your organization by making mix-tapes for my friends, I am just sick inside.

If all consumers work together under your fine leadership, I know we can turn the tide. Let us make it our mission to keep your rappers and pop icons rich beyond imagination. If you need any assistance with any of the campaigns you are waging, I am your humble servant. We can win this war; and we must.


Taylor Kingsbury

Taylor Kingsbury, a junior journalism major, is a staff writer of the Campus Times. He can be reached by e-mail at

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