McMUN 2018: Recording Industry Association of America: The Problem with Pirates

The committee session began with a fair consensus on addressing the issue of piracy first. In the last decade, digitalization of music has improved its ease of access, thereby reinforcing the imperative need for a revision of policies governing music piracy and a discussion of piracy preventative measures.

The discussion began by recognizing that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) cannot simply address the issues of piracy with more stringent litigation; on the contrary, several delegates expressed the importance of fostering a consumer culture which emphasizes that music is a product that needs to be paid for. Rather than pointing an accusatory finger at the large base of illegal music users and condemning these consumers for ‘stealing’, the RIAA seeks to “remind consumers of the importance of music and its purpose to sustain the livelihoods of artists” as stated in their first resolution.

The President of the RIAA, Mitch Glazier, proposed the idea of incentivizing consumers to pay for music by working with companies like Spotify and Soundcloud to give extra content to their users. Julie Swidler, Executive Vice President of Business Affairs & General Counsel, Sony Music Entertainment, added on by proposing the concept of having a “buffet of content” and compounding the incentive for consumers to sign up to legal services such as Spotify by creating partnerships among other non-music content providers such as video and podcast services.

This approach deliberately and decidedly neglects to appeal to the hard-core music fans, since these users likely buy the content themselves without requiring further incentive.

Other delegates expanded the horizon of business partnerships to include bigger corporations. Mitch Glazier provided Coke Studio, a Pakistani TV series that features established and emerging artists collaborating with each other in studios funded by Coca-Cola, as an example of a unique business partnership that acts to combat piracy.

While these ideas were pitched, the sentiment to use legal ramifications as a deterrent for piracy remained among several delegates. Some proposed lobbying Congress and monetarily supporting the government’s anti-piracy efforts, while others argued that it would be a large expenditure and perhaps a cost-benefit analysis would be necessary to determine whether this expense would be worthwhile.

Aside from negotiating with the government on legislation, the RIAA proposed reaching out to companies like Apple and Sony and working with them to regulate their app stores to ‘weed out’ illegal apps that contribute to the problem. Along those lines came the idea of revamping surveillance systems such that sites illegally streaming an artist’s latest releases are targeted and taken down. For some delegates, this idea was met with raw skepticism, as shutting down pirating sites is, as described by delegate Will Tanous, like playing a game of whack-a-mole.

Delegate Bradley Buckles asserted that since a large part of the piracy issue revolves around the digital file format, perhaps a technological solution would be effective. This concept would be similar to copy protection for CDs that effectively decreased unwarranted copying and distribution of music. This was described in the RIAA’s third draft resolution as a collaboration with Internet service providers like AT&T and Comcast to “combat piracy by slowing down and stopping peer-to-peer networks as well as ‘stream-ripping’ websites and apps”.

Halfway through the session, the congregation was met with an unprecedented crisis update that informed delegates of an imprisonment of 500 college students without public trial due to piracy. The RIAA issued a statement rebuking the lawyers involved in the decision of a twenty-five year sentence ruling for the college students and agreed to offer funds in order to give the students a fair trial. Despite minor disagreements, the congregation remains united in its efforts to ameliorate their position as an industry.

Krithika Ragupathi is a Biology and Psychology student at McGill University

Edited by Ben Aloi