The Madness of Corporate America

I imagine this doesn’t really need publicity here, but right after a revealing longer piece by comics creator Steven Grant which is more about the misery of being a comics creator trying to get a project off the ground, is a non-comics item of utter corporate madness:

Here’s a good one: The Recording Industry Association Of America (RIAA) has decided that even if you create your own music you can’t play it on your own website without paying them. They talked the US Copyright Office into designating their subsidiary Soundexchange the collector of Internet radio royalty payments for all music played on the Internet, not just music controlled by the RIAA.

Why? Pretty much just so they can enforce their will on Internet radio. What this means is that if you compose your own symphony and want to podcast it, you have to pay Soundexchange the royalties that you owe yourself. Then Soundexchange will pay the royalties back to you, if you pay Soundexchange for the service. If you don’t want to join Soundexchange – and if your music doesn’t fall under RIAA jurisdiction, why would you? – they don’t have any obligation to give you the money you’re owed. Because, apparently, nonmembers simply aren’t owed any, even though they’re required to pay.

It’s basically racketeering, and like most such schemes various companies and organizations are now trying to impose on the Internet, I can’t wait to see how they plan to enforce it, since the Internet is an international operation and it’s only a US government agency that has authorized this thuggish stupidity. Not that it’ll stop the RIAA from trying to operate like a pack of mobsters, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens when someone decides to take them to court over this.

It’s hard to imagine courts will uphold the scheme for long though I expect some judge somewhere will think it’s a wonderful idea, so arguing it in court doesn’t seem in the RIAA’s best interest, but if they back down on any threats of legal action they’ll be backing down on all of them. Most likely they’ll face any legal challenges with the standard corporate practice of driving up legal costs for the opposition and trying to keep the case from ever coming to trial.

Reading further into this, I’m bemused to discover via BoingBoing that The RIAA is the most hated “company” in America, according to a recent poll on the Consumerist. The RIAA’s campaign of suing thousands of American music lovers has been the single biggest PR disaster in recent industrial history — which is why Engebretsen’s employer beat out Halliburton, Blackwater and Wal-Mart for the coveted “Worst Company” slot.

Seems the Performing Rights Society in the UK just isn’t trying hard enough. 🙂

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