Open letter to the RIAA: Illegal file sharing problem solved?

Open letter to the RIAA: Illegal file sharing problem solved?

Summary: Dear RIAA: I know I've said some harsh things before, but today I offer you a potential solution to the illegal file sharing problem that has gripped a technologically-advanced world in the worst possible way.


Dear the Recording Industry Association of America (the "RIAA"),

I know I've said some harsh things before, and to be honest, I still stick by them. The Family Guy musical sketch describing the characters' opinions of the FCC could well be replicated here in view of your own organisation.

However, today I offer you a potential solution to the illegal file sharing problem that seems to have gripped the world stage.

In a nutshell, if you live in the United States and are caught downloading illegally, you can consider yourself already bankrupt, as the RIAA will sue you into the ground. However, under new legislation in the UK, instead of hefty fines, the Government could order your ISP to cut off your broadband connection.

This has annoyed the ISPs on this side of the pond because they claim while they provide the service, it is not their job to police how their customers use it.

The problem

I honestly believe that with the price of media at the moment, the vast majority of people would be content in buying media online - provided they could have it there and then in a download. The problem is that many popular items are simply not available online to buy. Granted, this has changed with the Amazon and iTunes wave of technologies and services, but it still isn't up to scratch.

Also, the peer-to-peer technology and online file sharing is an open Pandora's Box and now cannot be closed. You can attempt to take random people to court and financially send them back into the Stone Age, but you cannot convict everyone.

The recording and broadcasting industries must change to survive. You cannot sustain the business model you once had because the times have changed, along with the content delivery system and the generation of people.

The solution

In the UK, to effectively raise enough revenue to help roll out super-fast fibre-optic broadband, the Government added a £0.50 "tax" on top of every monthly phone bill. There are roughly 34 million landlines in the UK, so that will generate £17 million a month. Add another £1 to this and you'll generate (an obvious) £34 million.

The UK's equivalent to the RIAA is the PRS - the Performing Right Society. Every time a record is played on the radio, the royalties are paid by the radio station to the PRS, who then divide up all the money from that month (or other specified amount of time) and pass on the royalties to the artists. No doubt, this is what the RIAA does also.

So with the £34 million generated each month, the PRS can use the already-available technologies to see what is being downloaded, take some of the money for their own inconvenience and divide the rest up to content creators.

When using torrents, it's clear to see when you are (or have) downloaded an episode of a popular TV series, so in that case, a small portion of the overall royalties can go back to the creators of the series.

The under-belly

A £1 tax a year sounds harsh to some members of the tax paying community. Over here, the very vast majority of us pay roughly £0.70 a year on paying for the Royal Family which brings in huge revenues from tourists who, quite frankly, could be easily entertained by giving them a balloon on a stick instead. An extra £1 would generate huge revenues and the PRS would be able to do their job much more effectively.

Of course, the numbers can be interchangeable but with a greater population and exchange rate differences, $1 should suffice.

The system works, in a way, very much like the UK's National Health Service. We all chip in pretty much the same amount of money through taxes, but as you would expect, some people need more treatment than others. Here, we don't mind doing that because if we switched to the American system then a good proportion of the country simply couldn't afford medical treatment - even in an emergency.

In conclusion

But because we live in the digital age that we do - we cannot be waiting around for months at a time for the latest Harry Potter film to be released to DVD. So we search alternative sources and download it illegally. Release the online download as soon as the film is out, and then we can buy and watch it there and then. You won't be losing out in revenue, because at least this way you

a) won't have people downloading it for free, and

b) when those people are caught, you're not spending tens of thousands of dollars bringing them to court.

This is why cable companies are bringing popular U.S. television shows to other countries as and when they are broadcast in the U.S. You can't have a programme floating around the Internet for half a year and expect people to wait patiently until it arrives in their region. No, they'll turn to the web and they'll download it for free.

It makes sense, and everybody wins - so do something about it.

Kind regards,

Zack xx

Topics: Government US, Banking, Browser, Government, Telcos

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  • I think I'll skip...

    ...governments collecting and paying royalties. Its called tolling and every business in the world would like to access governments' ability to use force to collect money for them.

    What would be the outcome of such a scheme? Whenever "artists" (and I use the word loosely given what's being released these days -- think anything by Fergie here)feel they are being insufficiently compensated for their "art", they need not produce more or better art, they need only lobby the Government and then you and I, will be required to stump up more cash for the privilege of listening to music.

    Better the devil you know (RIAA) than making the Government bill collectors for Slipknot, Miley Cyrus, et al.
    • You Nailed It, Pal !

      I couldn't agree more!

      I've never downloaded an illegal song in my life (I'm an "oldies" fan and there just aren't that many of them out there), yet I've spent a fortune on oldies CDs which I've ripped and legally made my own compilations with (for my personal use and nobody else's).

      I hate those dirtbags at the RIAA even though I will never have anything to fear from them, just on principle alone.

      They (along with the guv'ment vampires known as the IRS) should be relegated to the ash-heap of history as we know it; they're both 1st cousins of lampreys and piranhas.

      The Hell with the lot of 'em!
  • What is the word I am looking for...


    Our government is not here to collect "royalties" for businesses.

    If the RIAA want to survive they will need to come up with business plan that provides incentive for their customers to do business with them.
    • fully agreed!

      the RIAA Dinosaur is about to go extinct and you want to prop up their outdated, poorly run, and very near death business model with taxes(!?) that the government will collect(!?) on their behalf??


      Even the most giant dinosars died in the tar-pits...just give RIAA time to drown.
      • True enough

        First they have realize that the freeloaders will never go away. Then they need to realize that there are many of us who want to pay for content and really all it takes is the right price, the ability to get the content conveniently and a little incentive to push the impulse buying button we all have.
    • Not that it matters to this administration.

      It would be against the constitution for the Government to act as a collection agency for any corporation (let alone a corrupt enterprise such as the RIAA).

      Nope, I will pay for what I want (I don't download, stealing is still stealing even if you take revenue from a corrupt enterprise, two wrongs kind of thing) and won't pay for what I don't want.

      Why do you think Amazon and DRM free exists. I was one of the tens (hundreds) of millions who refuse to purchase their DRM infected wares. I now do purchase from Amazon a lot. Corrupt the marketplace with a 3rd party tarriff, they have no incentive to move out of the late 90s.

      • Government Collecting?

        All you - NO government collecting .....
        I don't know who you pay your phone/internet
        bill to, I do NOT pay it to the government.
        How about we do not call it a TAX but a "culture flat rate" would that be ok then? I am in favor
        of this idea.
        1. It would make the RIAA as we know it
        2. it would keep people from going bankrupt over
        20 or so songs, because filesharing would either
        be not necessary, or it would be legal.
        Juergen Hartl
        • Invalid.

          The author suggested a Government Tax or Levey to be paid NOT to another Government Office (Like 911, access fees, etc) but instead to a corrupt enterprise. Secondly,

          [B]It would make the RIAA as we know it obsolete.[/B]

          Not a chance. It is in business to make money for it's own pursuits. Next would be enforcement rules and continued rules to make sure every single penny ends up in their coffers.

          [B]it would keep people from going bankrupt over 20 or so songs, because filesharing would either be not necessary, or it would be legal. [/B]

          NOBODY, not one single person who downloads music over the age of 12 does NOT know they are doing something wrong (most under 12 know it's wrong but basically immune, lol). Too bad, don't download illegal content and don't share your content. Why should I be forced to pay forever for them? Why not everyone pay $5 a month to pay for all the speeders who get nabbed? Why not collect $25/year to go into a pool for all of those folks who need to re-do their first year of college? Where does it stop and when do people have any responsibility to live their own life and reap what they sew (both the good and the bad)?

      • RE: An open letter to the RIAA: Illegal file sharing problem solved?


        You made some horrible and wrong headed analogies. You said:

        "Why should I be forced to pay forever for them? Why not everyone pay $5 a month to pay for all the speeders who get nabbed? Why not collect $25/year to go into a pool for all of those folks who need to re-do their first year of college?"

        The reason your thinking is way off base is because you have completely failed to connect the dots with the propose of the laws in relation to the proposed solutions.

        First off, speeding; the laws against speeding exist to prevent speeding which can cause injury and death, not to mention destruction of private property. Your proposed solution of having everyone chip in $5 to pay for speeding ticket infractions does nothing to prevent the death and destruction caused by the results of speeding. In short your solution is no solution to the problem itself at all.

        Your idea of having everyone chip in to pay for a redo on a blown year of college is so out of sync with the RIAA issue its pretty much impossible to even see where you may be thinking a rational analogy exists. For one, redoing a year of college may be an expense but it has nothing to do with breaking the law, or a problem created by breaking the law. Its simply an expense incurred by someone who presumably didn't try as hard as they should of the first time at a perfectly legal and worthy task. Its impossible to reconcile any meaningful comparison with the RIAA issue so that point is moot.

        On the other hand, the issues dealing with the RIAA are legal matters and the reasons for the laws relating to the issue exist is to ensure that creators of content get the pecuniary reimbursement they deserve for their work.

        Unlike your ideas, the idea of collecting fees in some way that does reimburse content creators does resolve the problem the particular laws were created to solve.

        Unfortunately, too many people don't understand the root of the file sharing problem and if they truly understood it, for real, they may very well change their mind about how it should be dealt with.

        The root of the file sharing problem is that human beings are literally hardwired to share and copy things, sharing is particularly prevalent when its not cost anything significant to share. In fact that kind of sharing is usually found to run rampant every time that kind of opportunity exists.

        Sharing and copying is one of the human traits that got the human species to where it is today, literally. In times long past one family would find out about his neighbors planting and hunting practices and tools that made him successful and copied what his neighbor did so that his family wouldn't starve.

        We consider an education such an important thing in the western world that we demand our children GET an education and get that education paid for by way of taxes. Educating is nothing less then sharing of the highest accord. We have recognized this form of sharing as to be so important that we consider our societies all the stronger for it. While it certainly dosnt apply to higher education there are reams of reasons for that, far too many that should be so obvious it would be far too time consuming and pointless to point them all out.

        Mankind has grown and learned and prospered in a far more broad based and general way because of the fact that those who learned the importance of copying and sharing were the ones who became successful and hence it became part of human nature to do just that, particularly when the costs of sharing are low. In those circumstances it is impossible to stop unless you can find a way to change the very nature of human beings around the world. And thats impossible.

        The recording and media companies brought this debacle almost entirely, and knowingly upon themselves. What do you think went on when the first CD's were brought in front of them as an example of new technology that could be used for delivery of content? What do you think these executives were told?

        I can tell you what they were told, that CD's were cheap to produce, yet because of the sterling quality sound you could charge triple what a vinyl LP was selling for at the time. And make no mistake, somebody had to of asked about copying, cassette tapes had been around for ages and VCR's were popular as anything, everyone knew about copying that already existed. What the recording exec's were no doubt told was that while in 1982, CD's were not easy or cheap to copy, but that it would all likely change in the approaching years as computer hardware was already showing signs of moving into the consumer household and as always when it does, things get cheaper, soon much much cheaper.

        And the exec's didn't care. They figured a few good years of fleecing the public to the tune of $20+ for a cheap CD when they could only get $5.99 for a vinyl LP was good enough for them and they would worry about the copying in the future when it got there.

        And here we are with the RIAA telling the human race they have to change 200000 years of evolution thats turned us into copiers. And of course, thats not going to happen. Not even close.
    • You are forgetting that this is the United States of RIAA

      They run the show here, they pass the laws, they decide the penalties. RIAA owns this country.
    • I agree whole heartedly.....

      Give me a reason to spend my money..
  • Whah? Tax money to bail out another industry?

    Let's see.... Banking, insurance, automobiles and now RIAA!

    If the recording industry is too stupid or intransigent to innovate, they should go out of business. Taxes to float another dinosaur industry? How 'bout them vinyl records, eh?

    On a more practical note, the United States is 39 times the size of Great Britain (including Northern Ireland), and the population density is 8 times higher in the UK. Running fiber to a high rise is one thing, running fiber in most of the U.S., which is rural, even with taxes, is cost prohibitive at this time.

    For comparison, Verizon's outlay in non-rural Eastern U.S. is about $24 billion. In the current stimulus the government as provided $7 billion for rural broadband. That should go far (not).

    In any case, the knee jerk reaction of tax and spend to every problem, hopefully, at some point, will finally be laid to rest.
    • agreed...

      "If the recording industry is too stupid or intransigent to innovate, they should go out of business. Taxes to float another dinosaur industry? How 'bout them vinyl records, eh?"

      this is supposed to be a free market economy (even though it doesn't resemble that much any more).
      The last thing we need is gov't more involved than it is. Gov't is the middle man that has caused our health insurance to cost so much now, I'd hate to see what would happen to entertainment/internet if they got any more control over it.
      • Close enough to a free market.


        Its like people out there are sometimes forgetful of of what a truly free market means.

        A completely free market is one where the restrictions are so non existent that companies in the market place are free to fleece the public and grind their opposition into the ground by whatever means they find available.

        I cant be bothered to write the four or five pages it would take to outline the instances where that has happened in "free markets" of the past and how it even still happens today in our current free market but its certainly suffice to say that any restrictions there are in the free market are there because some companies (some huge ones) have repeatedly proved that the more free the market, the worse they behave, to the point of putting their host country at risk in favor of maximizing profit.

        So at this point don't blame the government. Blame the greedy corporations who seem to have too frequently gone to extraordinary measures to prove they cant be trusted with the nations well being when they have dollar signs in their eyes.
    • Totally agree... the 16th century, pirates stole from Spanish ships which were essentially stealing gold and silver via slave labor from Latin America.

      The act of piracy created a balance of power between the occupying nations and their rivals. Most governments sanctioned "privateers" (a disguised form of piracy) in order to gain wealth by stealing the "spoils" of Spain.

      Today, record and video piracy are really a market response to the "virtual monopolies" created unintentionally by lobbying inspired "copyright" laws.

      Just as privateers hid piracy under bogus laws, modern copyright has nothing to do with its name sake, and more with iron fist control of works that are essentially stolen from the community (via focus groups and grassroots movements) and converted into exclusive rights packages, with nothing original whatsoever.

      Bands, directors and staff are all victims of the system, but haven't rebelled against it due to the constant infuse of fresh new money.

      With the downturn, this system has collapsed just like the banks and insurance system (both also based on "tailor-made" laws).

      Time will tell the outcome. Just remember the incredible amount of pirate movies Hollywood outputted over the past decades.
    • I pay for my downloads to get legal content.

      I mean, iTunes only charges my a buck a song. WHY would I want to have my taxes raised to pay for those that DON'T buy legally?

      Maybe the UK has more freeloaders than the US. Too bad for you!
      No More Microsoft Software Ever!
  • RE: An open letter to the RIAA: Illegal file sharing problem solved?

    Um, if you "add another ?1" to ?0.50, that would be ?1.50, which would result in ?51 million. If you meant "increase the ?0.50 to ?1," you sure didn't say so.

    Of course, this kind of thing is why we all love ZDNet bloggers so much, and why we suspect you've got a shrine to Rigoberta Menchu in the staff lounge.
  • Solutions abound: motivation lacking

    The difficulty is not in devising a solution to the problem ... but in persuading the establishment that they stand like King Canute.

    If they will not provide consumer value and be eco-friendly then I should be quite happy that the penalty for intransigence be 'death by drowning'.
  • Your solution to music piracy is more gov't?

    How about, no!

    What a cluster #!$% the gov't would make of an Art tax.
  • Another naive blogger - you can pay my share

    why should i pay for music/films i don't download?