By Richard Menta 9/10/03
The headlines might well have said "RIAA Molests Children" rather than "RIAA Sues 12-year old". That was the maelstrom brought about by the national media coverage when pre-teen Brianna LaHara received notice that the record industry lobby was suing her for stealing. No set up could have been worse for the industry lobby than Brianna, a girl who lives in city housing in a single parent houshold.
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Stories spoke about a terrified little girl brought to tears. Worse yet Brianna's mother, Sylvia Torres, berated the RIAA for their assault on her daughter. She knew nothing of the politics of file trading. She thought the $29.95 she paid for her child to use KaZaa meant they were paying for the music.
"It's not like we were doing anything illegal," said Torres, a line that should have made the RIAA salivate as it offered an admission that would play favorably for the lobby in court. Then Torres said "This is a 12-year-old girl, for crying out loud." a line that played badly in the court of public opinion. Then she stated she would hire a lawyer and fight, a line that played badly with the RIAA as the Torres/LaHara story hit the press with a ferver.
The RIAA went into damage control mode. A move that was so swift the suit - which broke the press about lunch time - was settled by early evening.
It was the smart move for Torres. It was the only move for Torres. The RIAA and her lawyer knew how much a trial would cost and they told her. The RIAA then said pay us $2000 and read these sound bites we wrote and the nightmare stops immediately. A nightmare that was as much the RIAA's as Brianna's.
The press today states how a normal little girl admitted she was wrong and paid the fine. The RIAA will play it cool and spin this in a matter they feel will work most positive for them. Brianna was an obvious innocent, not of file trading but of the politics and acrimony that surround it. Posts off of websites reflecting on the story expressed fury against the RIAA.
Last year the lobby's former CEO Hilary Rosen was called the most hated person in music by a poll run by Billboard. We have talked about the public relations effect of the RIAA's actions since they announced they were thinking of suing Napster back in 2000. Now all the press is talking about it.
The image of rock and roll since Elvis has ranged from teen rebellion to challenging of the status quo. It represented freedom in the 60's, but lately it has represented corporate hegemony, the opposite of what hippies envisioned at Woodstock (remember that perception is not always reality). The RIAA to many consumers today symbolizes oppression, oppression of both artist and consumer.
The question is will this image shift directly coorelate to an even quicker drop in CD sales?
We'll have to see, but if I were Universal I would hurry up and come through with their announced prices cuts on CDs to bring back some balance.
One more point, and it is in the RIAA's favor. A recent poll showed that with regards to copyrights Two-thirds of Adult File Traders Couldn't Care Less. That attitude may change and something that, in the minds of the RIAA lawyers at least, will justify this pogrom.
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Copyrights: Two-thirds of Adult File Traders Couldn't Care Less.