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The young and the board
With little sympathy for the record industry, the P2P generation is takin’ it to the screen

IF YOU WANT to take the pulse of the P2P generation, you do it online. Sites like,, and post articles about developments in the file-sharing world (from new software to new legislation), give technical advice (such as how to prevent record-company snoops from sifting through users’ shared folders by blocking known RIAA IP addresses), and offer tips on writing to Congress (use spell-check).

These sites have been around for several years, but since the RIAA’s announcement in June that it planned to subpoena individual P2P users, and especially since the first volley of 261 lawsuits, the tone of their discussion boards has taken on an added urgency. Hiding behind aliases like CodeWarrior and AverageConsumer — screen names that, unlike those on file-sharing services these days, are still able to protect their identities — posters hold forth. Back and forth they ask and offer advice, debate each other on issues of fair use and intellectual property, thumb their noses and vent their spleens. Mostly, they howl for the downfall of the major labels. On the day the lawsuits were filed, September 8, the was aflame.

"This is outrageous. THE TIME FOR ACTION IS NOW," wrote negatyve.

"We should start a fund to help out those people singled out by the RIAA’s Gestapo tactics," suggested sonofgonzo200. And indieWarriors summed up many attitudes toward the RIAA with this: "Kiss my fuckin ass."

Much has been made of the labels’ gambit — the first such large-scale suit by an industry against its customers — as a potential PR disaster. But to judge by the ever-hardening antipathy of these sites’ regular posters, it may be even worse than that. Boycott-RIAA posts a list of every record label to avoid (there are hundreds). "This is the way the RIAA wants to play it, we have to play it our way," writes ILUVELPEES. "By boycotting them until they have to live in cardboard boxes under bridges (like they want these evil fileSHARERS to do)."

The hatred for major-label fat cats runs so deep that many posters often ignore the fact that file-sharing actually takes money out of artists’ pockets. That said, most P2P users say they want to compensate artists and the labels that deserve it. After mistakenly including Matador on the list of labels to avoid, for instance, Boycott-RIAA founder Bill Evans implored his troops to drop by the label’s Web site. "They have great music and its all indie," he wrote. "They have a store on their website, samples of the music, band info, and much more. Pay them a visit and buy something.... The indies need our support."

Fans’ grievances against the record industry are well-known by now. These days, CDs are more expensive than ever, with popular titles’ list prices topping off at $18.98. This, despite the fact that it’s cheaper than ever to manufacture compact discs. Universal recently announced that it would be reducing prices to around $12.98, but the cry from the P2P community was a predictable and near-unanimous "too little, too late."

"They think these petty little drops in prices are going to save them, wrote jnsnlace. "Its gonna take a whole lot more than that after everything thats happened." Says Emeraude: "Nothing they could do would EVER get me to buy from any of the RIAA controlled record companies! If I can’t put my money directly in the artist’s pockets, I WILL NOT EVER BUY AGAIN!"

The labels develop and market disposable pop, then are incredulous when file-sharers treat it as such. They pump up singles on the radio, but since the singles market is all but extinct (those that are still around sell for as much as $4.49), cash-poor adolescent fans are often forced to purchase a mediocre album for one or two good songs. As JakeEXTREME writes on general-purpose blog, "I’ve shared music, I’ve also downloaded music. Sue me, and you can get my bills. Please, I make $9 an hour."

Even when the RIAA group plays "good cop," as with the "clean slate" amnesty it recently announced, offering immunity from lawsuits for anyone who sends them a signed and notarized affidavit (with photo ID!) promising to refrain from file-sharing and to respect copyrights thenceforth, P2P devotees see more sinister motives. "For those who want to wipe the slate clean and to avoid a potential lawsuit, this is the way to go," said Mitch Bainwol, RIAA chairman and CEO, in a press release — neglecting to mention that the RIAA does not own copyrights and has no legal authority to prevent other civil lawsuits. It’s entirely conceivable that the group could simply turn over these admissions of guilt to its member labels or individual songwriters. The refrain heard across the message boards: how dumb do they think we are? "Immunity, schmunity," wrote sosueme. "They can download a kiss and store it on the hard-drive that is my lilly-white butt."

If the record industry dies a slow and painful death, these folks will applaud. Ex–Limp Bizkit guitarist Wes Borland recently complained in an article, cited on Zeropaid, that file-sharing was hastening "the demise and collapse of everything that is still good about music. Keep it up, and you’ll be able to watch it fall."

A poster dubbed ken 17625 shot back: "Sometimes things need to be demolished before new, more advanced things can be put in their place. You can either bow out gracefully and accept technology ... or we can crush you. Your decision." regularly polls its 168,228 members on a variety of topics from iTunes to Iraq. It might behoove the RIAA to pay attention to one question that appeared a few weeks ago, asking "Do you buy CDs?" Some 14.1 percent of respondents answered, "Never, I just burn them," and 5.8 percent replied that they buy only "when I can’t find something on the Internet." Still, 5.5 percent did say that they buy CDs "all the time," and — indicating some efficacy for Boycott-RIAA’s efforts — 18 percent responded that "if the RIAA left P2P alone I would." Perhaps the trade group should consider the 17 percent who said they’d purchase music "if prices went down," and the 39.6 percent who said they buy CDs "only when there is a good one." If the major labels spent less time and money suing teenagers and put more effort into cultivating talented artists and devising ways to provide music on amenable platforms at a prices wage-slave adolescents can afford (which they do seem, slowly, to be doing), they might thrive once again. As Zeropaid poster Steve Bugge puts it: "Wake up guys: Bad Music + Bad Economy = Bad Sales. End of story. A little competition with a low cost distribution method that cuts out the middlemen, that’s what the RIAA is scared of."

Mike Miliard can be reached at mmiliard[a]

online music special
The Empire strikes back
Amid declining CD sales, weak releases, and the continued rise of online file-sharing, the five major labels are fighting to regain market share

Sue you, sue me blues
The recording industry tries to scare 60 million file-swappers by suing 261 of them

College try
Local institutions of higher learning seek to stop their students from using school networks for illegal file-sharing — sort of

Sounds like stealing to me
Call it ‘trading’ if you want, but I don’t buy it

The young and the board
With little sympathy for the record industry, the P2P generation is takin’ it to the screen

The iCollector
There’s a history to this file-sharing thing that can help us anticipate its future

Future imperfect
Copy protection won’t work, and compulsory licensing raises the specter of government control. Why our best hope may be just to muddle through.

Sonic youth
Musical adolescence in three parts

Issue Date: September 26 - October 2, 2003
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