RIAA – Filesharing Growth Has ‘Stabilized’

Late last week, the RIAA announced that they have launched a new round of lawsuits. This follows last months round of lawsuits.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

According to the RIAA press release, the lawsuits went to the following:

The RIAA’s thirteenth wave of letters went to the following colleges this week: Boston University (35 pre-litigation settlement letters), Columbia University (50), Drexel University (33), Indiana University (40), North Carolina State University (35), Ohio State University (30), Purdue University (28), Tufts University (20), University of Maine System (32), University of New Hampshire (32), University of Southern California (50), and the University of Virginia (16).

The RIAA calls it a “deterrence” program. Of course, this is round 13 of lawsuits. The total number of lawsuits in this round is 401. So how does the RIAA feel about this deterrence program? That, interestingly enough, was also included in the press release.

“One year into our legal campaign, we’ve seen an emerging legal marketplace that would have struggled to gain traction were it not for our efforts to clamp down on online music theft,” said Cara Duckworth, Director of Communications, RIAA. “The exponential growth of illicit peer-to-peer has stabilized and music lovers know what they can and can’t do when getting music online. This has fostered a climate that helps music companies earn a fair return so that they can invest in the next generation of artists and new bands can have a shot at realizing a dream.”

The word ‘stabilized’ may ring a bell to some who witnessed CEO Mitch Bainwol two years ago claiming that file-sharing was “contained”

Of course, there was a further warning in the press release:

“The future of music is brimming with innovation,” said Duckworth. “For those who choose to ignore all the content-rich alternatives and get music the wrong way, they run the risk of legal action, potential disciplinary enforcement from a university and crippling both their computer and the university network.

So, should students be nervous over downloading the latest 50 Cent album? For that, it may be best to consult the US consensus which has an interesting statistic (PDF) which says that in 2005 of the 2,675,000 students that completed high school, 68.6% enrolled in college. Simple math suggests that 1,835,050 students had enrolled in college. Roughly speaking, thats about a 0.22% chance of getting a pre-litigation lawsuit. This is only if all the lawsuits went to first year college students coming straight out of high school. Add the rest of the population and that chance would simply decrease to depict a more realistic scenario. While calculators seem to have difficulty calculating the actual number, the odds are also 1 in 4,576. The odds of getting 4/6 numbers in the Lotto 6/49 according to Wikipedia is 1 in 1,033. The odds of hitting three numbers in the PowerBall according to Wikipedia is 1 in 11,927.

So while the odds are relatively close together still, the admission from the RIAA that file-sharing has gone up since the last time they said the growth has stopped may strike many as interesting. Another interesting aspect is that last week, Oklahoma State handed over the names of alleged file-sharers. The campus doesn’t appear in this round of lawsuits just like the previous round of lawsuits.

The news of the current round of lawsuits come after the RIAA demanded that royalty rates for artists be lowered. The move has made many doubting the idea that the RIAA is suing music fans to help the artists careers.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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