Last night I received an e-mail from a guy called Steve Schwartz. He is a Junior at Columbia University, and has recently been threatened by the RIAA with an impending lawsuit against sharing music via the University's P2P system. Instead, he has opted to go for an out of court settlement, to the tune of $3750 - a lot less than what it would be to try and take them on in the courts. It is actually probably less than it has cost the RIAA to bring about this action. However, for a student, it is difficult to raise the money - and as he mentions on his website, they have only chosen 25 out of those on the network that were sharing (so they must have had access / assistance by the University? Isn't this a breach of Privacy if the University did not specify outside access to log files etc in their ICT agreement?), and are going to make examples out of them. The RIAA, and the music promoters themselves obviously do not need the money - if they did, surely they would take on ALL of those that were violating copyright? (I'm not saying some of the smaller artists don't, but I very much doubt they would ever see a cent of the money from Steve!). I should make my position clear on this one: I do not advocate piracy, copyright or intellectual propery right infringment. However, the current restrictions to music are ludacrious. Has anyone actually read them? Back in the days where tapes were the norm, you were not allowed to copy them - so what happened when you car stereo decided to mangle your tape? You had to buy another one. When CD's appeared, they declared you couldn't make tape records (great - so you have just bought a CD for in the house, and you can't listen to it in the car without shelling out more money!). When CD Recorders became main stream, they started adding DRM systems to the discs (with varying degrees of success - checkout the recent Sony fiasco - thats hurt Sony more than it has hurt it's customers). I myself have digitised most of my CD library - I hold copies on my server, on an external hard drive that lives with my laptop, and on MP3 CD's for use in my car's MP3 player. That technically violates copyright too. Will I stop? No. Why? I'm this case, I have legally bought the music, and I will listen to it - as far as I'm concerned that is my right. Now, I'm not saying I haven't downloaded the odd album from the P2P systems, I have. Should I pay for them? Probably. I'm happy to pay a fair amount to the artist, to the distribution system, and even the record label. I am not willing to pay for an organisation that is purely there to nail people who, in the first place, are going to struggle to purchase the music commercially. Almost all of the album's I downloaded, I have gone on to purchase (those that I listen to anyway). It may have taken me a few weeks, even a few months to save up the money to buy them, but I did. And while I was saving, I enjoyed listening to the music, and therefore, it has made my loyalty to the artist stronger (in this particular case, it's the Gorillaz's!). If the RIAA really wanted to stop P2P sharing of its music, it would attack the P2P networks, and lobby the ISP's (it doesnt have to do this directly either - most ISP's are a member of an ISP charter), and get the illegal parts of P2P traffic stopped. I'm not saying they should destroy the P2P networks, but it doesn't take much to detect and block specific file types. There are many legitimate uses for P2P technology - even Microsoft use it. What we need is a decent DRM system, that is cross platform (how about extending something such as the excellent Ogg Vorbis format?), a low cost, easy to use, lightweight music directory with online purchasing (files would be watermarked, and flagged with an expiry date -- after the expiry date you would need to download the file again -- purchased music held online itself should NEVER expiry - CD's don't, so why should MP3's?). Things exist like this, such as Apple's iTunes, and the HMV Digital service. However, in both of these cases, the software is MASSIVE. Far bigger than it needs to be. HMV Digital itself is appalling, a true testament on how not to develop software. But above all, they are still not cheap enough - they are fractionally cheaper than, say, buying the full album on Amazon. In some cases, they are more expensive. What does this tell you? Someone along the line is pocketing a lot more than they should - and maybe this hurts the music industry more than piracy? I myself will be making a donation to Steve, when I have some spare money. [Link to Steve's site]