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A friendly letter from the RIAA

Hey, valued music consumer:

Boo! Just kidding. Ha, ha. Don't be scared. We're not the bad guys.

We're the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). We're people just like you, except that technically, we're a cartel of very large corporations. Technically. But untechnically, we're people just like you!

And like you, we've seen all those headlines. The ones about how we're, like, totally crushing innocent people. Extorting thousands of dollars in settlements, without proof, because the defendants can't afford to fight us in court. Ruining lives of little people, to underwrite the cocaine-fueled orgies of our fatcat lawyers and pampered rock stars, who openly detest you. Mansions, sports cars, private jets, and high-priced hookers. In Thailand, you can get one that's a guaranteed virgin, and you get her for a month. Where was I? Read that back to me. Oh, right.

We've seen those headlines. But there's really nothing to be scared of. Sure, we sue people. Lots of people. And it does cost some money if you try to defend yourself. One lady tried it, and it's costing her $80,000. So far, she's the only one. Everyone else just pays us what we tell them.

But see, we only sue people who break the rules! They're the bad guys, not us. They're stealing! We're just standing up for fairness and goodness! And against badness. People who follow our fair and good rules won't get sued. You want to follow the rules, don't you? You want to be good, right? Of course you do. You'd better.

But merely wanting to obey the rules won't help you much, if you don't know the rules! To help you obey the rules you want to obey but don't know what they are, we've put together this little Question-and-Answer essay, to explain the simple, fair, good RIAA rules. Hopefully, it will help remove some of your confusion and silly fears about such technical terms as "copyright," "intellectual property," "lawsuit," "damages," and "prison."

Q: I want to be legal and stuff, but I don't know what the rules are!

A: That's not a question.

Q: Okay. Can I download music over the Internet?

A: No.

Q: No? That's it? No?

A: Yes.

Q: But what if I pay for it, like at iTunes?

A: You're allowed to pay for it, but not to download it. Downloading is stealing.

Q: But I paid for it!

A: That's not a question.

Q: But if I buy a song at iTunes, what am I buying, exactly?

A: Great question! If you read your contract when you buy the song, you'll see that you are simply buying the right to hear the song, but not to make copies. It is our position at the RIAA that downloading makes a copy of the song, so you do not have that right. It's all very fair, when you think about it. Sadly, most of the people we sue don't realize this.

Q: You sue people who paid for the songs?

A: Yeah, mostly. Pretty funny, isn't it? They're usually pretty surprised to find out that they are criminals, but the proof is right there on their computers. After we subpoena their computers, they usually settle just to get their computers back.

Q: How can I hear the song without downloading it?

A: There are hundreds of ways! You could buy the CD from any retailer. Or, turn on the radio.

Q: Turn on the radio?

A: Many radio stations have "request lines" where you can ask the staff to play a certain song. Or, maybe you could go to a tavern or someplace with a jukebox.

Q: Can I go to a friend's house, who has the CD, and listen to his?

A: No. That would be a "public performance," and neither you nor your friend has bought that right.

Q: If I buy the CD, can I listen to the song?

A: Ha ha! Of course! Alone.

Q: Alone?

A: Right. Where nobody else can hear it.

Q: Can I put it on my iPod?

A: No. That would be making a copy.

Q: How about, if I immediately destroy the CD, can I put it on my iPod? Then there would still be only one copy.

A: No, there would be two, because your PC stores one copy in iTunes, and another on your iPod. So, it's stealing.

Q: What if I...?

A: No.

Q: I didn't even ask yet.

A: Look, it doesn't matter. Don't you get it yet? The music is our property, not yours! Whatever is was you wanted to do with it, the answer is no! And if you try to do it anyway, we will destroy you! And if you think we're bluffing, just try us!

Q: Is there somebody I can complain about you to?

A: Sure! Just send your complaints to Be sure to include your full name and address. A reply will be on its way very soon.

Posted by guest author: Sean Gleeson on Apr 07, 2008 11:00 am

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