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RIAA in the doghouse

Geoff Gasior
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Got word of this new editorial over at the little white dog’s place, and decided I just had to have a look at it. The editorial covers several of the big issues surrounding the recent RIAA/Napster/MP3 controversies.

Sony put the Offspring in a position where they had a choice of doing what the record label wanted, or never having their album released. They did this not because they thought that releasing the album for download would cause slow sales when the CD’s hit shelves, but because they FEARED that the promotion would actually be successful. If The Offspring’s plan had been successful, it could have been demonstrated as a “non-infringing use” by attorneys for Napster….

I’m not going to shred this editorial bit by bit, because this is a news post and really not an editorial of my own. However, there are a couple of things I just can’t let slide. The editorial makes a few lists of things the recording industry, artists, customers, and Napster should do. Great, an editorial that bitches, but also proposes intelligent solutions to the problem. Well, they missed a a couple of very key things.

First, there is no mention anywhere in their instructions for Napster to remove artists who don’t want to be a part of the service. Excuse me? Lars might annoy the hell out of me, but he’s got a right to decide if his art can be on something like Napster. Anyone owning the copyright to their work has the right to dictate how it is distributed, unless of course they sign away that right. How the author gets around Napster’s obligation to remove work at an artist’s request, I have no idea.

Thought that was bad? This is the one that really has me steaming. Apparently, it should be the responsibility of an artist to “provide compelling content as part of albums to continue to inspire consumers to support the musicians, and purchase CD’s.” Provide compelling content so that purchases are made? That’s not art. That’s a product; that’s business. Another suggested responsibility is that artists should “compile albums based not on ‘marketing schema’s’ but on inspiring existing fans to continue in their following of the band, and it’s music.” Excuse me? While an artist has a certain level of responsibility, if only moral, to his fan base, what about a responsibility to the art itself? Sure, you can sell out to a record label, or to the marketing department, but there’s such thing as selling out to your fans.

The MP3 issue is huge, complex, but in some ways very simple. Strip away the technology and rhetoric, and you’re left with a much clearer picture of the art that’s involved. If you’re an artist, you have the right to have your work taken off Napster. If you call yourself an artist rather than a businessperson, you have the responsibility to make not compelling products, but compelling art.

Don’t be shy, those comments are there for a reason.

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