The RIAA knew SOPA and PIPA were useless, yet supported them anyway

The industry knows that most music files are swapped offline, notes Torrent Freak. So why is the RIAA still asking ISPs to spy on us?

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SOPA burning

flickr/Yogesh Mhatre

The Torrent Freak blog reveals that, despite the RIAA’s public support of the ill-advised SOPA and PIPA bills last winter, the music industry trade group never actually believed that either piece of legislation would have put a dent in music piracy.

Torrent Freak got its hands on a leaked presentation given by RIAA Deputy General Counsel Vicky Sheckler last April. Among the bullet points in Sheckler’s report is the notion that while SOPA and PIPA were “intended to defer [copyright] infringements [by] foreign sites by obligating/encouraging intermediaries to take action,” they were “not likely to have been an effective tool for music.”

The internal report shows that the US music industry has been taking it in the shorts for some time – shipments declined from $12.3 billion in 2005 to just $7 billion last year – but the boogieman isn’t who you think it is.

It turns out that while illegal music sharing is still quite popular among the kids, most of the swapping takes place offline, not on. As the following chart shows, only about one out of six music files is exchanged via a P2P network, while nearly half are traded via a physical hard drive or ripping music purchased by others. Cyberlockers like MegaUpload contribute just 4 percent to that total.

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Slide courtesy of Torrent Freak by way of RIAA from the NPD research group.

Part of that can be attributed to the fact that some of the most popular P2P services have been shut down. Part can be attributed to the low cost and easy availability of USB thumb drives. (Seriously, does anyone really trade a hard drive?) I think none of it can be attributed to the RIAA’s spectacularly bungled attempt to intimidate file swappers by suing thousands of them, violating their privacy in the process.

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