Saturday, September 16, 2006

An Important Open Letter from Our Friends Resisting the RIAA in Hungary

I received this important letter from those fighting the RIAA's counterpart in Hungary. Although it was initially addressed to me, its author has authorized me to publish it on the blog. I consider this letter an important, historic clarion call to action for those of us in the United States. It is clear that these folks in Hungary are way ahead of us in thinking this problem through, and in organizing the resistance, and that we have much to learn from them. I urge all of my readers to (a) disseminate this open letter far and wide, and (b) get together and act upon it:

Re: Fighting Back Against the RIAA Internationally

"Dear Colleagues,

"Thank you for answering the multitude of questions on Slashdot. That is
how I have learned about you and your work. Let me inform you that there are
others, in other countries, who are fighting the same fight you are.

"In particular, we have established a self-defense fund called Elite Defense
(web-page in Hungarian: in Hungary that provides legal assistance to those attacked by RIAA's Hungarian subsidaries. We are providing this service in partnership with an attorney, who actually does the legal representation. His name is dr. Zsolt Dallos (email address: I would like to share our experiences with you in order to avoid reinventing the wheel (by either of us).

"Hungarian law with respect to file sharing is more similar to that of Canada
than that of the US. On top of that, we have a legal system based on
code law rather than common law. This alters the tactics of our adversaries
as well as that of most effective defense, but I still think that some of
our experience may be useful to you and vice versa.

"For instance, I find that the main weapon of the copyright-mafia is
intimidation and scare tactics. The actual number of cases is relatively low
(compared to the number of people actively involved in file-swapping), but
they try to give each one of them big publicity in order to scare the rest
of us. Consequently, the actual risk of a person being sued is far
smaller than what the copyright-mafia would want us to believe. This, in
turn, implies that there's a market for insurance-like services: for a
modest monthly fee (approx. $1/month), we provide free legal representation and
a T-shirt (saying: "they wanted to fine me for file-swapping, but all I got
was this lousy T-shirt") to those attacked. The T-shirt is actually very
important: instead of being something shameful, it shows resistance to these lawsuits to be
something to be proud of, which is very important in defeating their very

"Another very important activity of ours is that of countering the record industry's false propaganda. As you have written, the formation of the legal framework is still in progress, thus public opinion matters a lot. It is very important to show the world that it is we, not they, that have the moral and legal high ground. We organize public debates with the representatives of the copyright-mafia on university campuses, where we expose the immoral and
hypocritical behavior of these guys, which is motivated by greed and nothing
else. Here are some powerful arguments that have been made in these debates:

"There is a difference between music and a recording thereof. The recording
industry has actually robbed many musicians of an opportunity to make money
by playing music: in many places (pubs, markets, skating rinks, etc.) where
there was (diverse) live music (for centuries!), now we can only listen to
(the same) recorded mucic. It is more cost-effective for the recording
monopolies to hand-pick a small number of performers making them superstars
and flooding the whole world with the same (often very shallow) music than
to allow for greater cultural diversity. Thereby, they are inflicting
enormous damage to humanity's cultural heritage.

"There is no better advertising for a musician, than the recording of their
performance. If recordings are circulating freely and the music is good,
people will notice and demand that music. Now, the recording industry wants
to rob musicians of this potent, yet low-cost, marketing tool in order to
maintain their control over the tastes of people and to keep the number of
popular musicians as low as they can. The overwhelming majority of musicians
are actually benefitting from file-sharing, and file-sharing allows for making
money by means other than seeking the favors of recording monopolies.

"Music copyright has killed folk music. How many folk-songs do you know from
the second half of the 20th century? That is because the recording industry has made
copyright the only way for musicians to make money. The tradition of taking
a song and performing it according to one's own tastes, which lies at the
basis of folk-music, was rendered unprofitable and thus almost extinct.

"In countries where music copyright is not enforced (Russia is a prime
example), there are many more live performances. Even the most popular bands
need to tour the contry and give concerts in order to earn their living. And
guess what, they usually make their mp3's available for download right on
their websites for free, because that's how they lure people to
performances. That is, from the society's point of view, a far better
situation that what you have in America and other countries with zealously
enforced music copyright.

"The marginal costs of making another copy of a recording is, for all
practical purposes, zero. This is reflected in the fact that
Universal Music is now offering free downloads. At this point, the claimed damage per shared song should be closer to $0, than to the RIAA's standard $750 (there is a different figure in Hungary, but that's not relevant in your case).



Commentary and discussion:


Keywords: digital copyright online download upload peer to peer p2p file sharing filesharing music movies indie label freeculture creative commons pop/rock artists riaa independent mp3 cd favorite songs

1 comment:

CodeWarrior said...

Fighting the heavy handed extortionistic tactics of the RIAA and their ilk here and abroad , means that we who do find this a serious matter, need to establish international contacts and work together to defeat this scourge upon digital consumers. This letter is indeed an important one, and I assert that the folks in Canada and Australia involved in a similar resistance , need to join forces with those of us in the US who oppose this attack on the consuming public.