Friday, April 23, 2010

RIAA - Really Imaginary Accounting Adventures

Two recent news stories that should give one pause (but probably won't because the subject matter's too esoteric). First, AfterDawn reports that the Government Accounting Office has taken a hard look at the numbers the RIAA and MPAA have quoted for years. Numbers documenting how much they lost to piracy. Numbers showing how file-sharers are destroying their livelihood. Numbers that were totally made up.

In the second story, TorrentFreak shows that -- according to their own numbers -- piracy seems to have little impact on the growing digital download market. According to the numbers, it looks like a simple case of market shift. CDs -- which are very profitable -- are declining in sales, while digital downloads -- low margin items -- are on the rise.

So what do these two stories mean taken together? At the very least, it means that the entertainment industry is not just in deep denial -- it's delusional. Instead of adjusting to a changing market, they're placing the blame on a minor problem by making it a major one.

So the MPAA and the RIAA have gone to war. People have been dragged into court, and hefty fines levied -- based on made-up numbers. Legislators have been stampeded into passing draconian laws that trap the innocent -- based on made-up numbers. Countries are being strong-armed into complying with the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) -- based on made-up numbers.

As the laws continue to become more severe, more former innocent (and legal) acts are becoming grounds for prosecution. Have you copied a CD to your computer? Used to be legal -- RIAA claims it isn't anymore. Loaned a DVD to a friend? You're doing some unauthorized distribution, friend.

And what happens when everyone becomes a criminal (and liable for arrest, prosecution and fines)  -- based on made-up numbers? What happened to alcohol consumption during Prohibition?

 - Ralph

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