"In its most serious crackdown yet on file swapping, the Recording Industry Association of America said it will gather evidence against individuals who trade songs online and slap thousands of them with copyright-infringement lawsuits.The online community is reacting to this with the usual mixture of outrage and resistance-is-futile. But this time, I am not sure if this approach really is so futile. As Jane Black writes in her commentary for Business Week: "Spreading fear may not be good PR, but it gets the job done far more efficiently than suing faceless software companies."
Bolstered by recent court rulings that make it easier to unmask individual file swappers, the music industry trade group said it will launch a massive campaign Thursday to target individuals who offer "substantial amounts" of music through peer-to-peer networks.
"Once we begin our evidence-gathering process, any individual computer user who continues to offer music illegally to millions of others will run the very real risk of facing legal action in the form of civil lawsuits that will cost violators thousands of dollars and potentially subject them to criminal prosecution," RIAA President Cary Sherman said in a statement. (...)"
see also: RIAA - Press release
If the RIAA really sues hundreds of "normal" Kazaa & Co. users this certainly will have a significant effect. There still will be lots of people who want to download songs via these services, but many of them will stop sharing their own music. This will amplify the problem of free-riding and could very well dry up the whole file-sharing world. At least until reliable IP-masking software is integrated into the clients.
But successful or not, the whole story clearly shows that the media industry still doesn't get it: putting a lawyer next to every pc is probably a way to kill file-sharing once and for all, but hardly an efficient one. Services like the Apple MusicStore or eMusic have shown that there is a different way: just make it more easy to buy music than to steal it and don't treat your customers as thieves. It's as simple as that...
If the big record companies would fully embrace this concept, the whole industry could thrive again. So instead of feeling sorry for themselves, they should read this book and start adapting to the fact that things have changed...
By the way: in a funny coincidence, the German newsmagazine DER SPIEGEL reports today that the European launch of the Apple MusicStore will be delayed at least until the beginning of 2004 (article in German). Looks like the European music companies are not able to figure out the necessary legal stuff. Their lawyers are probably to busy finding ways to sue evil file-sharers on this side of the Atlantic, too !?