Pirated Material Is Worth What?

Yesterday I pointed to a story where a woman paid $756 per song. However, that number is completely arbitrary and steadily decreasing. In a recent prosecution of a man in New Orleans, the MPAA claimed that pirated DVDs were worth $19 each. In another case, the RIAA said that pirated CDs are worth $13.74 a piece. If a CD has 20 songs, a single song definitely isn’t worth $756. Every case states a different value for pirated material, but whenever it comes to scaring legislators (hardly the critical bunch), the rhetoric becomes clear: pirated material is costing America billions of dollars a year.

The RIAA and MPAA have successfully created legislation based on trumped-up numbers. There are so many factors beyond piracy that have led to decreased sales. First of all, consumers have no way to find new music and films. In the 1990s, MTV actually played music; now, the network only plays reality TV. A major avenue for finding music is all but closed. If less people are watching TV and movies, why would a bulk of your advertising be placed in those mediums? Instead, sites like Pandora, Muxtape, YouTube, etc that expose people to a multitude of music are being shut down or having content forced down with nasty DMCA takedown notices.

Add in the fact that kids are getting sued for trying out new music (downloads do not mean that a person does not own own the item nor do they imply that a person will not buy the good later) which inflames people. While I cannot speak for everyone, I have stopped buying CDs (I don’t even download the music—I just don’t listen to anything) after the zealous prosecution of consumers. No successful business model is based on suing your customers; it bites the litigious ones in the butt.

Beyond that, the music has become grossly commercial. At a time when people are rushing to be individuals, music and film have become completely homogenous. TV has become increasingly diverse; cable networks like USA are doing well with unique shows such as Burn Notice and Psych. However, ratings overall are down while total viewership has increased. People are embracing their niche and business should follow suit.

Lastly, the economy has been slowing for years. If people have less money, or feel less secure in their future, discretionary spending will decrease. That means music and movie sales will decrease. That’s just life in a free market. Some businesses fail.

The American public is paying for the RIAA’s and MPAA’s inability to adapt to a changing market. Consumers have less money and fewer options to find new movies and music; we are being sued by content producers; and the product being offered is not to our liking. Fix these issues. Stop creating unnecessary laws and pursuing frivolous lawsuits.