YOU as an RIAA Victim

By Jon Newton 5/03/05

Last year Canadian marketing expert Dr Markus Geisler made it clear that Big Music’s efforts to stampede people into buying its over-priced product by suing them aren’t having much success.

Geisler is far from being alone in this belief. Many other studies and reports make exactly the same point and indeed, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s recent OECD Information Technology Outlook, 2004, says the number of people logged on to p2p file sharing networks simultaneously grew to nearly 10 million in April 2004, a 30% increase from the same period a year earlier

Jon Newton

In his Theory of Collective Consumer Risk, "Downloaders are generally less likely to expect a stern warning, expensive lawsuit or even criminal prosecution, the more those around them are doing the same," says Giesler, who quotes p2pnet's contention that the odds of ending up as an RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) target are akin to being struck by lightning.

Slyck's Tom Mennecke has compiled further material supporting the idea that as the numbers of people logging on to the p2p networks increase (and more and more people are signing up every day), the chances of you being singled out for particular RIAA attention decrease exponentially.

FastTrack network users have until recently born the brunt of the attacks and, "From the last capture of the proportion of networks under the RIAA’s gun in November of 2003, 150 users of FastTrack were sued, compared to 5 Blubster users," he says. "Since the RIAA cannot subpoena individuals anymore, we unfortunately cannot provide a more current proportion. However, common knowledge dictates that FastTrack remains a priority, and on November 13 of 2003 it represented ~96% of those being sued."

But, "If we were to eliminate 96% (proportion of FastTrack users) of the 6,523 sued in 2004, the odds of being sued changes dramatically. If we consider only those using a non-FastTrack P2P network, the total number of lawsuits drops to only ~261. In other words, you then have a 1 in 45,977 chance of being sued if you do not use FastTrack. Comparatively, according to the National Safety Council, you have a better chance of being killed in a transportation or non-transportational accident, death from suicide, death from assault or death by legal intervention (such as execution or being shot by a police officer.)"

Say, however, half of those sued in 2004 were using FastTrack, that leaves 3,261 non-FastTrack related lawsuits, says Mennecke. "You would then have a 1 in 3,679 chance of being sued. That still places you above all external cases of mortality (1 in 1,755), but below all transportational accidents (1 in 5,953.) However, you would still have a better chance of being killed in an unintentional accident (1 in 2,698), then being sued by the RIAA.

"Although these numbers are hardly an exact science, they do reflect the odds of being sued are little different than the risks one takes by simply living day-to-day life. But if we were to get real specific, the odds of being sued by the RIAA for non-FastTrack users (1 in 3,679) is still much greater than death by contact with a venomous snake or lizard (1 in 95 million.)

"So just watch yourself."


Jon Newton is the editor of and is a regular contributer to MP3 Newswire. Jon's site is devoted to the politics of digital music and his insights as well as those of his co-writers can be read there. We urge you to explore it.


The U2 iPod is available on Amazon

Other MP3 stories:

Copyright Bill Passed in Congress Will Criminalize File Sharing
What Makes a Journalist? Thoughts on Apple and Think Secret
Can Free Broadcast TV Really Be Napsterized?


Back to