The Reality

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This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

The big news in the music business involves seven songs, a Harvard Law professor, and a million dollars.

Joel Tenenbaum, a Boston University graduate was tagged by the RIAA as an illegal downloader. His crime was downloading seven songs from peer-to-peer networks. The RIAA wants over a million dollars.

It's a case made for television. Mr. Tenenbaum retained the legal expertise of Charles Nesson, a Harvard Law Professor, to defend him. Nesson's next move sent the RIAA into a tizzy.

Nesson asked the judge to allow cameras into the courtroom to telecast the proceedings. The RIAA objected on the bases that individuals could "remix or manipulate the feed, making the RIAA look bad." But the judge agreed with Nesson. It's very rare for a federal court to allow a live video stream of an active trial. The RIAA complained that the webcast would only be available on the defending attorney's website, the Berkman Center for Law at Harvard. Nesson replied that the RIAA was welcome to offer gavel to gavel coverage on the RIAA site as well.

The trial will resume on February 24. It's sure to be contentious.

The RIAA has reason to worry. An international trade group representing over 1400 record companies in 73 countries just released their findings on illegal downloading. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry held a 3 year study. The results are that 95% of all music is traded illegally. That means 95% of music is traded without any payment to the songwriter or musician. Considering that the US accounts for 50% of the global digital music market value, this is a devastating fact.

Though publicly, the RIAA says they are abandoning the lawsuit strategy, in reality, they continue. Failing to recognize that consumers perceive music as free lifestyle resource, the RIAA is only now beginning to investigate alternative monetization avenues with Internet Service Providers.

It just may be too little to late. Since 2000, album sales have decreased over 50% according to the industry's own sales calculations. If there were any justice in the record business, the decision makers at the top of these companies would be remixed right out of their jobs.

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.