Reading, Writing, and the RIAA

The music industry's ability to think outside the box has been a bit schizophrenic lately. Despite some heartening signs, a less heartening headline made the rounds today, stating that the industry is stepping up its targeting of piracy on college campuses. But hey, I guess there's nothing like going after the best and the brightest in a short-sighted panic.

According to the Associated Press, the music industry has issued thousands more complaints to universities this year than it did last year. The top universities targeted were Ohio, Purdue, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the University of Tennessee, and the University of South Carolina, but the RIAA identified 25 universities to which it sent the most copyright complaints.

The music industry is well-known by now, thanks to the actions of the Recording Industry Association of America. The RIAA represents the industry, but most often brings to mind the majors, Warner Music Group (NYSE: WMG  ) , EMI, Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) and Bertelsmann's Sony BMG, and Vivendi's (NYSE: V  ) Universal Music.

The article pointed out that the universities employ differing approaches when it comes to punishing those who use the school's computer networks for piracy. Some give warnings, subject violators to anti-piracy flicks, or suspend the students for a semester if they're repeat offenders. Apparently Purdue doesn't do much at all -- it said it's too much trouble to track down the students and pointed out that the RIAA seems to expect the school to play investigator, and it doesn't see that as its responsibility. I can see its point.

Of course, the article also pointed out that the RIAA could sue the universities if it doesn't get the response it seeks. No surprise there.

Maybe I harp on the same old tune way too much, but this seems to be just another example of the music industry's tendency to lash out rather than address the changing landscape. College students tend to be outrageously avid music fans (and cash-strapped ones at that, at least in the old days). Regardless of a finite supply of discretionary cash, isn't the viral nature of music on campus one heck of a good way to get the word out on bands and create lifelong fans? I know my own musical tastes both cemented and expanded in college, and those influences led to music purchases later in life. I'm sure the industry sees targeting halls of higher education as a way to nip piracy in the bud (not to mention influence the behavior of these future consumers), but I believe there's a logic disconnect and the tactics are all wrong. What do you want to bet it backfires?

For more on related issues, see the following Foolish articles:

The recording industry has plenty of disruptive influences at work. If you're interested in the stocks that capitalize on industry disruption, check out Motley Fool Rule Breakers with a 30-day free trial.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool's disclosure policy wants to rock and roll all night (and party every day).


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