Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Bane of the RIAA

You almost want to feel sorry for Mitch Bainwol, the caporegime for the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) that lobbies for the four major multinational label groups – two of which are foreign owned. Bainwold answers to the labels’ bosses, under-bosses, and their consigliore.

To paraphrase the Four Tops, that poor bastard just can’t help himself. Instead of scraping it off his shoe, he keeps sniffing and stepping even deeper in it.

If you’re just joining us, here’s the story so far. The RIAA retained a company known as MediaSentry to invade private home computers for the purpose of collecting personal information. Based on information purportedly wheedled from these personal home computers, labels and RIAA filed lawsuits against tens of thousands of anonymous “John Does.”

MediaSentry is owned by SafeNet, Inc, a company that receives a steady stream of projects authorized and approved by President George W. Bush and – yes, you guessed it – his string-puller, Vice President Dick Cheney.

Now, allow me introduce you to Tanya Andersen. She’s the 44-year old woman from Tualatin, Oregon the RIAA tried to sue for illegal music downloading two years ago.

The RIAA wanted to make her an example of what hell they’d put anyone through caught illegally downloading music.

Ms. Andersen was unaware of her predicament with the RIAA until she received a letter in February, 2005 from the California law firm of Mitchell Silverberg & Knupp, accusing her of illegally downloading music and making it accessible to other illegal downloaders through peer-to-peer sites music. They also told her that she owed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the labels through the RIAA.

The labels via their collection agent, Settlement Support Center, fallaciously insisted that they had evidence that Ms. Andersen downloaded and distributed over 1,000 audio files.

Stop right there.

Did I mention that she is a single mother, disabled, and has a limited income from Social Security?

Did I also mention that Ms. Andersen purchased the least expensive computer sold by Dell, which she ordered from a television offer in the summer of 2002 for $499? It had the smallest hard drive they make; no CD writer – and its CD-Rom work didn’t work.

When the RIAA’s claim of possessing evidence of music downloading and file sharing on Ms. Andersen’s computer was debunked as a total falsity they quietly dropped the lawsuit. Sorry, for the inconvenience. We didn’t mean to terrorize you for all those months. It’s just an honest mistake.

You know those instances of getting a song hook stuck in your mind? The one playing in Bainwol’s head over and over and over is “Who’s Sorry Now” by Connie Francis. “You had your way, now you must pay/I’m glad that you’re sorry now.”

The reason?

Tanya Andersen is fighting back. She has countersued the RIAA for Oregon RICO violations, fraud, invasion of privacy, abuse of process, electronic trespass, violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, negligent misrepresentation, the tort of "outrage", and deceptive business practices.

Ms. Andersen's counterclaims also demand a trial by jury.

When the RIAA was building its case against Ms. Andersen, it allegedly attempted to coerce her into a settlement by threatening to summon her eight-year old daughter for deposition.

It gets better.

One of Bainwol’s minions allegedly called her daughter’s elementary school, claiming to be her grandmother. Aren’t there laws against coercion, especially when it involves impersonating one’s grandmother to an eight-year old child?

I’m surprised he didn’t release Doberman Pinschers on the kid.

What does the usually bullying and highly vocal RIAA saying about the countersuit?

There’s a kind of hush all over the RIAA.

Bainwold’s still smarting from the realization that many of his plans turn to dust when put into action.

Remember the scandal and ongoing Federal investigation into Hewlett-Packard last year, which resulted in the forced resignation of some of the company’s top executives? The RIAA’s in the same neighborhood. As the world’s largest technology company by revenue, H-P believed it could play above the law. Just like the RIAA.

Others are now filing countersuits against the RIAA for similar incidents.

You’d think Bainwol would back off on the RIAA’s deceptive practices?

Uh uh.

Not when your personal Jesus is Dick Cheney.

The RIAA teamed up with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for a heavy cash and carry lobby job on legislators in California to legalize pretexting.

What’s pretexting you ask? Three words: Invasion of privacy.

It’s privacy stripping; the practice of pretending to be someone else to obtain personal information from a person – including their banking and telephone records.

It’s lying to an eight-year old that her grandmother’s on the phone when it’s really the RIAA.

Pretexting is a type of fraud, which is usually covered and deemed illegal by state laws.

Both organizations argue that they need to lie and use false identities to trap illegal downloaders and wants exemptions granted to anyone who owns a copyright, patent, trademark, or a trade secret.

In a recent L.A. Times article, Brad Buckles, one of Bainwol’s RIAA soldiers said “the recording industry had never – nor would it ever, assume someone’s identity to access that person’s phone or bank records.”

A prerequisite to becoming a rascally RIAA rep is to have a short memory as in “I don’t recall.”

Mitch, you’ve got to learn to leave the law-breaking to those who know how to it.

Ever hear the saying information is power? That’s true in the world of crime and the world of politics. Mitch, we know that there are times when it’s tough to find that point where one ends and the other begins.

Didn’t you learn anything from your days as a coat holder and go-fer for Ronald Reagan, Bill Frist, and Connie Mack?

Rule number one. Know your target before you start shooting.

Mitch, in case you haven’t noticed, Capitol Hill is changing.

Bush couldn’t even carry Crawford today.

Even Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby, and Karl Rove can’t even get away with that stuff anymore.

Poor Scoot had to fall on his sword – and patiently wait for a pardon since even George W. Bush couldn’t get him one overnight. The only reason Scoot’s not serving time is because Bush lucked out with July 4th falling in the middle of the week. Capitol Hill's on vacation. By the time the Hill gets operational again it’ll be yesterday’s news.

See, Mitch, the RIAA is different. It’s true Dick Cheney was personally responsible for American policies that subjected terrorist suspects to cruelty and denied them the right to a fair trial. He could get away with it – but your downloaders aren’t exactly Guantanamo Bay and Abu Gharib material, y’know.

They’re downloading the White Stripes and Fergie for Christ’s sake!

Let’s travel back in time to the late 1970s.

Among other things, the RIAA is considered the official registrar of record sales. It used to determine gold (500,000 copies) and platinum (one million or more) albums based on how many copies were pressed and shipped.

It allowed labels to award themselves instant gold and platinum albums on the date of their release.

When the late Neil Bogart, who ran Casablanca Records, was scheduled to be on the Today Show to push Cher’s just-released 1979 disco album, Prisoner, he ordered one million copies pressed the week before so he could make the claim that the album went platinum on the day of its release. “Out-of-the-box” it’s called in record-speak.

Though a million copies were pressed, it was Cher’s poorest selling album – and within weeks Casablanca was buying up warehouse space to store its unsold albums. It is said that less than 100,000 copies were legitimately sold in total. It was Cher’s biggest bomb (though her rock band album, Black Rose, was right behind it).

RSO Records did the same a year earlier for their atrocious soundtrack to the ill-fated Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band movie. Did you ever see it? You’re no alone. No one did.

Most labels adopted this practice. They took out full-color double-page ads in Billboard and other music trade publications announcing their latest “shipped platinum” release, which was just about every album they churned out in that era. The joke in the industry was that albums shipping platinum were returned double-platinum.

When the bean counters started questioning the label promotion and marketing departments on why they were buying up so much warehouse space, the vinyl hit the fan – and the practice came to a sudden halt.

Just this morning CNBC reported that one of the Ford Motor divisions is in deep trouble for falsifying product shipment figures to shareholders. Turns out the Ford division shipped parts that weren’t ordered to what is called “phantom warehouses.” They were written up as sales but, in actuality, they were goosing the shipping numbers to make the division appear that it was doing better than it really was. It’s the same scam the labels and the RIAA pulled.

To save face, the RIAA started basing their gold and platinum notification based on the number of copies shipped to retailers – though discrepancies still occur. Neilsen SoundScan is a service that registers actual sales by scanning bar codes. Often, the actual sales figures of albums will differ from the shipping units claimed by the RIAA. Y'see, the RIAA doesn't count returns.

Considering its baseborn history why would anyone trust the RIAA to deal with the Internet radio royalty payment issue?

It’s like that line in "Get It like you like It" by Ben Harper: "Wrong is the new right."

That’s where Bainwol still has the juice. He knows what lobbyists are for. He was one. The Washington Post called him a “Top D.C. Lobbyist and Man in Demand” and Capitol Hill’s Roll Call newspaper chose him as one of the 50 most influential “politicos” in Washington.

Never underestimate the value of a cash bribe or, for that matter, a block of free Stones, Police or U2 tickets in the front row and backstage passes after the show to those on Capitol Hill that have to pay back a few favors to their high roller contributors.


Anonymous said...

How many congressional investigations has the RIAA bought itself out of? Invasion of privacy is right.

Mike Dane said...

Why the Moonbat rant in the middle?
It makes the whole rest of the
article questionable.

Anonymous said...

Why does the RIAA bite the hand that feeds them. As a music consumer who has bought over a thousand CDs incl. many to replace my vinyl versions I feel this group is short sighted and short changing the consumers they are trying to win over. Most of the new music I like I heard first on internet radio, XM, Music Choice or a friend's download. The RIAA may not realize this. They are driving consumers to piracy.

Anonymous said...

Clinton who is a Democrat signed both the Telecommunications Act and Digital Millennium Copyright Act into law. He was no better than the snakes occupying the White House today. You are right about bought and sold. Everyone in Washington has a price.

Anonymous said...

At first read I thought this was a parody on the RIAA. After reading it carefully it sent chills down my spine. We know our privacy has been compromised following 9/11. The RIAA and MPAA represent private for profit companies. What gives them the right to infiltrate anyone's computer?

Anonymous said...

Radio made a huge, huge mistake a few years back when Lowry Mays made that comment about not being in the business to sell music. He and others claimed that radio's sole purpose was to maximize client and shareholder value. What they forgot was the product. They let it slide, ignored it, lost great people and the result is what you hear on the radio today. I don't blame the RIAA. They see a wounded animal and want a piece of it.

Anonymous said...

Radio made a huge, huge mistake a few years back when Lowry Mays made that comment about not being in the business to sell music. He and others claimed that radio's sole purpose was to maximize client and shareholder value. What they forgot was the product. They let it slide, ignored it, lost great people and the result is what you hear on the radio today. I don't blame the RIAA. They see a wounded animal and want a piece of it.

Anonymous said...

Read John's latest blog entry. Excellent. Great ties between RIAA
boondoggling and the stuff in the attached link. Paints a very clear
and descriptive picture for even non-music industry types like me and shows how "tangled the web we weave" really is.

Am passing on the blog to a CIM grad I met at work last week. Maybe
there's more of "us" out there in the silent majority than we know -- getting us together is the key.

The link below uses the metaphor "Cheney fatigue" not so much to describe that person, but to describe the fatigue that settles over the nation when corruption and defensive posturing take a great industry or organization and turn it into a grandiose version of high school cliques and their power plays. That stuff bored me then, it bores me now -- the French word for that feeling is "ennui" -- the yahoo author uses "Cheney fatigue."

I see this less a right to privacy issue than one of corporate greed.

John said...

Technology has broken the hold models for both radio and the recording industry. They are not repairable. Until they stop trying to rebuild the old models and catch up on the new models being made by others they are doomed.