Music lawsuits sound flat

Taking a play out of President Bush’s book, the Recording Industry Association of America has developed a surge of its own, as it launched an escalated offensive this past week targeted at college students accused of downloading music illegally.

But this war isn’t fought with troops; it’s fought with lawsuits. The RIAA sent out 400 pre-litigation settlement letters to students at 13 schools and set up a Web site where students can settle their claims by paying a fine and promising never to illegally download music again before an official lawsuit is filed.

Also parallel to the war on terror, the organization also sent out letters to college and university presidents across the country asking for their cooperation in the ongoing war against file sharing. We can only hope they’ll be as helpful foreign leaders have been in flushing out terrorists.

The RIAA’s tactic is a blatant attempt at circumventing the U.S. judicial system by scaring the accused students into submission before a rightful trial and using them as an example to other students who think about downloading music, which is on scale with the U.S. administration’s use of Guantanamo and war tribunals.

Yet another similarity between the RIAA’s war on file sharing and the U.S. war on terror is in the effects on the law-abiding citizens. When you buy a RIAA-sanctioned album in the United States, you are bombarded with anti-piracy warnings and even malicious software preventing you from making full use of the music you purchased.

Likewise, U.S. government sanctions to prevent terrorism have regular citizens waiting in ridiculous lines at airports and borders, getting virtually strip-searched, wiretapped, video recorded and eventually being required to carry around a national identification card, basically giving up freedoms for a false sense of security.

Surely these entities could find a way to fight their battles without making major invasions into the lives of people who already obey the rules, but both groups remain uninterested in such measures.

While the Bush administration fought to be able to torture terrorism suspects, the RIAA fights to limit the fair use of digital media.

When these organizations treat everyone like a criminal, or even a possible criminal, they serve only to encourage the illegal behavior.

You’ll never have to deal with anti-piracy warnings or copyright protection software if you download an album off of the Internet. And the war on terrorism definitely hasn’t won the nation any friends.

If the RIAA isn’t careful, it will be faced with a long and uphill battle that will only end up alienating future generations of music fans. Additionally, the United States must be careful not to arouse and embolden future generations of terrorists with its actions.

Furthermore, in both the RIAA’s and the United States’ current conflicts, victory can never be absolute, as the groups fight against an abstract idea. Whether it’s music piracy or terrorism, you may be able to take down a few of the people that perform these actions, but you can never hope to completely terminate the actions.

There is one stark difference between the war on terror and the fight against music piracy, though. In the end, the United States has at least a benevolent cause for its actions in attempting to prevent people from getting hurt or killed.

On the other hand, the RIAA uses its guerilla tactics to terrify people who just want to listen to the new Justin Timberlake single, only to line the recording industry executives’ pocketbooks and protect their market shares.

Dakota Ballard Daily O’Collegian Oklahoma State University U-WIRE