Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The RIAA: Where Profits Outweigh Domestic Violence

Chris Brown and the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) have two things in common - they are two of the most recognized and influential “brands” in the lives of Gen Y. More importantly, their brands are intrinsically intertwined. Brown, at the age of 16, became the first male artist to have his debut single top the Billboard Hot 100. At the same time, millions of Gen Yers flocked to their favorite torrent sites to download his work (yet he still managed to sell over 2 million copies of his debut album). Then the RIAA slapped many of those same Millennials with lawsuits (the RIAA has allegedly settled with 30,000 people that they’ve sued over illegal downloading).

What I find sad, is that these “brands” are both setting horrible examples for malleable, young minds.

Chris Brown just pleaded guilty to beating up his girlfriend Rihanna, and was only given 180 days of community labor and 5 years of probation. Oh, and he can’t go near Rihanna for 5 years. No jail time. No huge fine, just community service.

Then there’s the RIAA. They have shown Gen Y the ways of a successful business plan. The RIAA has gotten so huge, that their sue-and-scare tactics have netted them $100M in settlement money! This week, a federal jury found a 32-year-old Minnesota woman guilty of illegally downloading music and fined her $80,000 each - awarding the RIAA a total of $1.9 million for 24 songs.

What have they taught Gen Y?

Illegally downloading 24 songs is worse than domestic violence.

I am sorry, but this is absurd. The RIAA is a business that represents the record labels that employ the recording artists. Instead of spending time and money to publicize the very real issue of domestic violence in an effort to condemn Chris Brown’s actions, they took the people that downloaded his music to court and profited from it. Unforgivable.

In my business law class, my prof pounded two things into my head: a business has fiduciary and ethical duties. Businesses have a duty to accurately report their finances and to conduct their business in an ethical manner. I’m sorry, but there is nothing ethical about the way the RIAA is conducting their business, especially since they are an industry leader (they represent 85% of all distributors and labels in the US).

If we Millennials are going to be the leaders of tomorrow, then how about setting a good example for us on how to run a business? Huh RIAA, is that too much to ask? If the very artists that you represent are speaking out against your disdainful sue-and-scare profiteering (Radiohead, Moby, etc.), isn’t it time for a change?

--Now Let Me Clear My Throat--
Josh Groth

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