January 09, 2003
RIAA Admits Illegal Music Sites Here to Stay

Finally the RIAA admits they must respond to this by offering good legal alternatives, in part so that illegal downloading of online music approaches tolerable levels, comparable to shoplifting in stores. "Illegal file sharing has to be driven into the underground by making legitimate offerings compelling," Cory Sherman said. Musicnet, Pressplay, Rhapsody, Rioport and Emusic are mentioned in the article as legitimate online music sites, but it says there are almost no sites offering legal music downloads in Europe.

Fred Von Lohmann makes a good point in an interview with TechFocus: "... in response to the last revolution in distribution, namely broadcast radio and television, copyright owners learned to let go of the need to control and count every single listener and viewer. And it turned out to work pretty well for all concerned."

Ed Felten adds to the discussion that counting watermarks and other current ideas for measuring music downloads are problematic because people will over or under report what they actually listed to and that something like the TV rating system may be a better way of compensating artists for their work.

Suggestions? Legitimate sites need to make the process as user friendly (the five sites listed above all had usability problems making it difficult to find artists quickly) and comprehensive (searched for the English Beat on all five - which had no listings, but searches on illegal services produced hundreds of hits) as the illegal services currently are, and price realistically. Flat fees are great, but if customers only want one or a couple songs, offering an alternative-pricing plan would be useful. Also, too much Flash and clicking around is annoying. A website for music is not a rock show, we just want to make a purchase.

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