One of the things that helped to fire my interest in free culture was the ongoing saga of the recording industry vs. online downloads. I can see some merit on both sides of the argument. I think that within certain boundaries, sharing music online really isn’t any different from making your friend a mix tape. Unfortunately, there are always some people who cannot be trusted to make use of a resource responsibly, and make life hard on everyone else.
The latest behavior by the RIAA, however, goes far beyond what is reasonable and ventures into the land of absurdity and opportunism.
In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.
So, the RIAA would have you buy an extra copy of all their music if you want to listen to it on your legally purchased tunes on an MP3 player. Heck, they might even want you to buy 2 – one for the computer and one for the MP3 player.
Unsurprisingly, Sony seems to be at the forefront of this effort. Sony has been a force for closed standards, double-charging, and limitation of consumer options for as long as I have been aware enough to notice. It’s one of several reasons you won’t see a Blu-ray player or a Playstation 3 at Songwind’s house.
I have gone as far as to take all RIAA artists off my wish lists. It’s going to be tough, because some of my favorites are in that camp, like Dream Theater, Los Lonely Boys, Eric Johnson, and Joe Satriani. The good news is that doing so will be a great impetus to find new and interesting independent artists. One of my newer finds is a man called Jonathan Coulton. His stuff is hilarious and catchy, and I recommend him to anyone. (The funny thing is, I ran into him ages ago based on his cover of “Baby Got Back,” but didn’t get familiar with his catalog until recently.
Here are some ideas for those of you who are interested in taking a more active stance against the RIAA and its component companies:
- RIAA Radar has got tools for determining if an artist or album is associated with the RIAA.
- They also have the Top 100 Amazon non-RIAA albums.
- Jamendo is a great place to find free and open music.
- Contact your favorite artists through their fan clubs, and let them know you can’t support them as long as their label is behaving is this fashion. Maybe they will move to a more user-friendly label. Maybe they will use their influence to try to change their current labels’ minds. Either way, it’s a good thing.
- Support free, open, and non-RIAA artists by donating or buying their work. If you can find a way, make sure to let them know that their position with a label that is not part of the RIAA influenced your decision.
Let’s hear about your favorite indie or free and open artists!