Copyright Suits Deemed Failures

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has declared that RIAA copyright lawsuits against peer to peer (P2P) network users are failures. The EFF argues that P2P networks continue to grow, and that the lawsuits targeted at users that download music and other material impose unfair burdens on a few users, while thousands of others continue to use such networks unfettered. EFF argues that the appropriate policy is to "dangle a more enticing carrot," such as lower priced music and less imposing digital rights management.

While the EFF is a fine organization, some of the conclusions it reaches about digital policy are very misplaced. First, it is very likely that the "carrot" that would meet EFF's standards would not be profitable to artists. It would be interesting to see what price-per-track would lead to the implosion of peer to peer networks, but reasonable minds suspect that it would have to be nearly free in order to abate the growth of networks. Second, the point of the RIAA's suits is less to hold individual users accountable, and more to bring salience to the potential for touble for peer to peer users. No one, including the RIAA, believes that these suits will be valuble based soley on their monetary value.

Bottom Line: It may be true that the RIAA's copyright lawsuits are failures. The EFF's explanations for the failures, however, ignore important considerations that lead to the suits. The EFF's statement is less a policy statement and more a statement of the organization's beliefs. In short, the EFF's declaration is simple propaganda wrapped up in a purported policy statement.

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