Can suing customers save the record companies?

Fred von Lohmann's op-ed asks the music question: "Is Suing Your Customers a Good Idea?"

Unfortunately, the evidence thus far suggests that the RIAA litigation campaign has had little, if any, effect on P2P file-sharing. Companies like Big Champagne and BayTSP that track the online P2P population have found that the number of U.S. file-sharers continues to grow. The global file-sharing population, moreover, is skyrocketing. A survey of Internet users undertaken by the Pew Internet and American Life Project did show a marked decline in file-sharing in the months following the highly-publicized first rounds of RIAA lawsuits, but Pew's follow-up reports have documented a rebound in the months since.

In the face of evidence suggesting that the lawsuits have been ineffective at curbing P2P music-swapping, the RIAA responded that "lawsuits are an important part of the larger strategy to educate file-sharers about the law." Well, the "education by lawsuit" of American music fans is also off to a rocky start. Awareness of copyright law is certainly up. For example, an April 2004 survey revealed that 88 percent of children between 8 and 18 years of age understood that P2P music-downloading is illegal. Unfortunately, the survey also discovered that 56 percent of the children surveyed continue to download music anyway. So while many music fans are aware of the "stick" of lawsuits, they seem relatively unintimidated by it.


(Thanks, Fred!)