Thursday, February 03, 2005

(Over)kill the Messanger- To P2P or not P2P

When a bunch of major label artists tell the Supreme Court that they want to sue Kazaa and all the other P2P companies, you have to wonder what's really going on here: see Top Acts Sign Brief Urging P2P Liability.

So, why would they line up to get medieval on the P2p's asses? Probably the most logical reason is that it will ultimately be PR for them to do so. Think about this- the RIAA keeps saying that they are reluctantly suing individual users over downloads. That might seem laughable but it's true. They know that it doesn't look good for them to go after regular fans and they really would prefer to sue Kazaa and company. The only reason that they can't is because the courts told them that they couldn't do it. Artists likely feel the same way- they don't want fans sued so they want the lawsuits directly back at the P2P companies instead. Makes sense, right?

Maybe. There's a couple of flaws with this kind of thinking. One problem is the endless cat-and-mouse game that will go on in the P2P wars. Cut off the head of one of them and like a hydra, they'll grow a dozen more heads in their place. Even the RIAA recognizes that they're playing Dutch boy at the dike, trying to plug up all the holes and never quite doing it. The best they can do is keep a stream of lawsuits going to try to keep the users/abusers in line.

Another problem goes to the heart of why the courts threw out the case against the P2P's in the first place. The original ruling about this goes back to suits concerning videotapes and how they'd destroy the entertainment industry. When the courts said that there were legit uses for video and that they were thus legal, the entertainment industry eventually figured out a way to exploit this new technology for billions of dollars. Now, they've played catch-up with the idea of online music and slowing making money on that. Choking off P2P is essentially shooting themselves in the foot because there will be less ways to improve and innovate the system and draw new people into it (for better and worse).

There's no safe bets about how this will play out. If the RIAA and these artists have their way, the P2P community will continue but just be driven farther underground. If they lose, they keep suing fans. So, either way, they're sunk. Nice system, eh?

I said it before, I'll say it again. Invest more in tech geeks and innovation than lawyers and you'll have to worry less about all those evil downloaders. I'm not holding my breath but I just thought I'd throw that out there again...


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