With one eye on their role in a future crimebusting cop show [*], RIAA employees donned paramilitary kit as they swooped on a Hispanic parking lot attendant in Los Angeles before Christmas. Faced with ex-cops wearing raid vests with "RIAA" emblazoned on the back, 55 year old Ceasar Borrayo handed over 78 CDs and DVDs of dubious legality, LA Weekly reports. Officers then posed before a banner reading 'Mission Accomplished'.
Well, maybe not. We made the last detail up, but only the last detail, and the militarization of civilian life here continues apace with this latest raid. The Recording Industry Association of America clearly enjoys dressing to thrill, and employs ex-cops and the paraphernalia of strongarm law enforcement when it swoops.
"They said they were police from the recording industry or something, and next time they?d take me away in handcuffs," the 4'11" Borrayo told the Weekly.
(In far off, distant countries such as those found in darkest Africa, US corporations usually employ proxies when they need to don the intimidatory appartus of the state, as the RIAA did here: and the phoney uniforms and instant paperwork were right out of Kafka).
But Borrayo is hardly the last of the great pirates. He admitted to turning over between five and ten CDs and one or two DVDs a week: robbing RIAA and MPAA members of around $12 a week in royalty payments. That's all of $624 a year.
By our calculations, we'd need to give a small pirate army of 4,000 car park attendants at least 192 years to reach the figure of $480,000,000, which is what major label price-fixing cost US consumers in the 1990s. (And that's a lowball estimate).
So clearly the raid wasn't intended to be cost effective in itself. However it adds to a pattern of intimidation that has seen the RIAA plan to activate bombs on users PCs and prosecute twelve year old girls. And despite the misgivings of the LAPD, who frown on the impersonation tactics, it's working: vendors hand over their merchandise in 80 per cent of "raids".
[*] To be called "Swapbusters"? We figure that given the relationship between the TV networks and the record labels, it's not a question of If, but When. Time magazine last year awarded its "Technology of the Year" gong to Apple's iTunes Music Store, which the pigopolists are fervently praying will succeed. ITMS throws a lifeline to the dying industry by returning most of the 99 cents per song to the labels, and wraps a noose around the necks of digital consumers by returning the final say over sharing capabilities back to the copyright holders. Who can then kick away the chair by first extinguishing today's restriction-free media, such as CDs, then closing the 'fair use' loopholes greedy computer companies negotiated. Then, it'll be wall to wall DRM.
Time is part of the same group as one of the RIAA's largest members, Warner Music. So the benefits of horizontal media consolidation are obvious. The only question is, who's going to play Bradley Buckles?
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