Memo to the RIAA: You're Suing the Wrong Party for Piracy

Guest Blog: If you have to sue someone, sue the guys who profit by selling songs illegally

Congratulations, Recording Industry Association of America, for prevailing in a court case that will do nothing to stop piracy and continue to turn the public against you.

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The Supreme Court refused earlier this month to hear the case of Joel Tenenbaum (pictured), a former Boston University student with a Ph.D. in statistical physics, who was ordered to pay $675,000 for the crime of downloading 31 songs. If you end up bankrupting him, you'll get lots of publicity — but not the kind you're looking for.

I suggest you target your members' kids and see how many songs they and their classmates download. Wouldn't that make a great lawsuit?

Suing the kids who illegally download music is as stupid as suing the people who download content on Androids because Google "stole" Apple's patents. Apple isn't stupid. It's suing Google, not its own customers.

You can argue that Apple, too, is shooting itself in the foot and simply inviting scores of counter-suits, but at least its not hurting its own customer base.

So if you have to sue someone, sue the guys who profit by selling your songs illegally: the companies that maintain massive caches of "pirated" songs; the Internet companies that allow consumers to freely pass songs back and forth; even colleges like Boston University that allow Tenenbaum and thousands of other students to store and send songs on their high-speed networks.

That won't make much of a dent in the piracy problem, either. But beating up a penniless graduate student? C'mon, do you beat up your own kids?

The solution is the same as its been for over 10 years — if you'd just open your eyes. Give people access to anything, anywhere, anytime for a fixed monthly cost (See: cable networks, massive profits of). Give away free or reduced-price concert tickets, access to rock stars, whatever, to keep your fan base engaged. Continue to sell songs to people who want to own. Support free advertising-supported services like Spotify.

You can probably think of dozens more ideas. Get creative. Isn't that why they pay you the big bucks?

You'll end up with massively better profits than you did before those pesky MP3s showed up.

Or you can continue to go after consumers and win the lawsuits. In which case, congratulations won't be in order for you and your member companies before long. Think eulogies.