Electronic Piracy

Jan 8 21:23 2006 Punkerslut Print This Article

"If you're good enough, anything/everything is free..." -- P85

Part 1 - Setting the Stage

"Only the rich can get justice; only the poor cannot escape it."

-- Henry Demarest Lloyd,Guest Posting ["Lords of Industry," by Henry Demarest Lloyd, 1910, chapter 1.]

The last time I purchased a game for my computer was over two years ago. It was State of Emergency, by Rockstar Games. It was somewhat old, so the price had been cut down and I thought I could splurge on a game that was just twenty dollars. To my great dismay, the game would not run. I reinstalled new drivers for every piece of hardware on my computer and I followed the step-by-step instructions of the trouble-shooting manual. Still, there were no positive results. Since there was no patch available on the Rockstar Games website, I e-mailed technical support. They responded, telling me to install new drivers. When I told them that I already did that, they told me they couldn't help me. But, I'm a gamer at heart, so I tried desperately. I installed the game on two other computers, all of them updated with the newest drivers. The game still did not work. At this point, I just about gave up. As a token, last-ditch effort, I searched the internet for people with the same problems... apparently, NOBODY could get State of Emergency to work, except for less than one in ten gamers. One reverse engineer ("hacker") had broken the code down and determined that the fatal flaw of the game was that it was only built to run on a Pentium 3, and would crash on anything higher. This was an interesting observation, especially since Pentium 3s came out several years earlier. I lost my twenty dollars. The rich, fat CEOs of Electronics Boutique and Rockstar Games continue to make a few bucks while selling defective software at outrageous prices. But, it would be the very last time I ever paid cash for software.

This is not the only instance of a gaming corporation failing its audience. Consider the magnificent Fallout series, released by Black Isle of Interplay. Anybody who has had only a small taste of Fallout probably immediately fell in love with the absolutely immersive environments and genuine storytelling. But, there were still flaws. Fallout 1 and 2 show a marked change from ordinary programming techniques. It stood out as being one of the few professionally made games that had no beta version. This left it absolutely full and reeking of bugs and errors. They did release one patch for Fallout 1 -- but it didn't work. It only created more bugs and completely disabled you from playing. And, if you gave up, chances are you had to uninstall the entire game, lose all your savegames, and start from scratch again. Fallout 2 didn't have a patch. Wait, let me correct that. Fallout 2 HAD a patch, but it didn't fix any gaming bugs, except for one or two grammar problems and maybe a very small error here or there. Of course, no official patches now are available for Fallout 1 or 2. Interplay went bankrupt, when it was discovered by the state of California that they had simply stopped paying their employees. They were fined $179,000. [* "Interplay offices closed by state officials," Tor Thorsen -- GameSpot, POSTED: 06/04/04 08:13 PM PST.] The money-hungry enterprise sold the rights of the Fallout series to Bethesda. This company is really worth a brief case study: Bethesda single handedly made the platformer Pirates of the Caribbean, for PC and X-Box. That pretty much sums up Bethesda, who is now making Fallout 3.

Besides gutting a beautiful and immersive story, such as the Fallout series provides us with, Interplay withheld their money to their employees. Capitalism at its finest: "Let our bosses get rich! Poverty seems so much better to wallow in!" So, who saved the hungry and willing gamer, who paid cash for something that won't run on his computer? The reverse engineer comes to the rescue again. There are several unofficial patches for Fallout 2, programmed by avid gamers to correct the bugs and faults that the publishers left in number. [ http://www.nma-fallout.com/ ] If you look up the technicalities of law, one might find something still more unbelievable: it was illegal for anyone to correct the problems on these games and make them workable on the system they were intended for -- that is to say, on the system they were SOLD FOR. The irony of American law reflects the corporate culture that it was made for. And, if someone wants a complete view of electronic gaming, they could look at any of the other Interplay games. All suffered from horrible bugs, some of them completely preventing gameplay; both episodes of Fallout have these bugs, but there are certain triggers for them, such as time elapsed in the game, which could cause Fallout 2 games to become unplayable. Consider another modern marvel of electronic gaming: Civilization 3. Aside from graphical content, the only difference between Civilization 2 and 3, is that the third one was an accurate and updated version of the second one. If you compose a list of all of Civilization 2's bugs, errors, miscalculations, and other misunderstandings, and correct a third of them, you get Civilization 3. Of course, Sid Meier's extremely popular series still suffers from pitiful ailments -- in Civilization 3, if you use terrain properly, men armed with spears and bow and arrows are enough to take out modernized infantry and tanks.

As of late, the rise of hacking, phreaking, and other high-tech deviants has given expression to itself in popular forums. Napster was extremely popular for a long time, when it offered users the ability to download and share music. Those days of sharing music are long gone now... at least, in Napster's eyes. Electronic piracy rings for music seem to be popping up everywhere, each one with more clever techniques for evading authorities and maximizing the efficiency of their networks. According to the law, in order to people who purchase music to share it, they must physically be present when they play their media for other people. Instead of being able to use a network to simplify our lives and make things easier for us, we have to rely more heavily on primitive and ineffective methods. Capitalism's essential effect: the inhibiting of all technological, cultural, and social development. One of the popular hackers of our day goes by the name Myth/Ethics. In the past, he pirated software and distributed en masse on all networks, including Kazaa and LimeWire. The pirated version of games like GTA2, GTA3, Civilization 3, Age of Empires 2, and the like can all be attributed Myth. He was a very skilled hacker. For instance, he was capable of compressing Civilization 3, a 1.2 gigabyte game, into a 100 megabyte zipped file. The install file had an icon bearing the Hammer and Sickle of the USSR police state; hackers know and accept that there is a war between the people and the power elites. Everyone knows the Myth games -- their installer features beautiful computer imagery, complimented by the most up-beat and intense of trance music. There are so many other hackers who I should mention here, such as Class, who pirated the Hitman game. I know of at least two hackers who used the word Philter in their title, and both of them contributed to the pirated game networks, including the pirated version of Uplink; ironically, it's a game about hacking.

The hacker who went by the title Myth or Ethics did much more than game pirating. The extent to which he violated security systems may never be known. He was the hacker who was known for breaking in to a network that granted him access to 16.3 million cell/camera phone images. Myth was the hacker who distributed nude photos of Paris Hilton from her cell phone. One might say that this is a tragedy, but those who say this are immediately forgetting one thing: it's Paris Hilton. Her father runs a hotel line that has a history of discrimination and prejudice. [* "Rael Announces Demonstration and Call For a Worldwide Boycott of The Hilton Hotels," Hotel Job Resource, oct. 4, 2000.] Plus, I'm sure we're all aware of her comments about "dumb niggers." [* "Hilton Fights Allegations of Racism," CBS Jacksonville, 10/7/2004 .] Myth's shenanigans don't end there. The CIA reported that he obtained and distributed "an internal Secret Service memorandum report, and a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty request from the Russian Federation." They also reported: "...the documents represented just a few droplets in a full-blown Secret Service data spill. The hacker knew about Secret Service subpoenas relating to government computer crime investigations, and even knew the agency was monitoring his own ICQ chat account." ["Hacker Penetrates T-Mobile Systems," by Kevin Poulson, SecurityFocus, 2005-01-11.] Unfortunately, Myth was apprehended by the police for his activities. His lawyer says he is considering the CIA's offer: work for them, and he doesn't have any jail time.

The United States government has a strong enough interest in hiring Myth that the CIA is completely willing to drop all possible jail time, just for accepting employment. I suppose that's what the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution meant by "nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." I am drowning in equality: we give long sentences to someone who has possession of crack because they're poor and black, but when it comes to corporate crime or sabotage, jail time isn't your only option. Capitalism produces the wonderful miracle of social injustice and the poverty gap. How much music is pirated by these technological deviants has not exactly been estimated. The Bittorrent networks generally have more than one million users at any given moment. Kazaa, in a day when it was much more useful, had similar numbers. Some hackers have boasted of being able to distribute 6,000+ songs in less than a full day. The amount of songs that have been pirated due to this new P2P technology can be estimated around fifty billion -- minimum.

Part 2 - The Empire Strikes Back

"We will quickly understand that the anarchists are right when they say that in order to have moral and physical peace, the causes that give birth to crime and criminals must be destroyed."

-- Ravachol ["Ravachol's Forbidden Speech," by Ravachol, 1892, translated by Mitch Abidor]

We are all familiar with the lobbying in congress to outlaw all p2p networks and file-sharing networks. Besides lobbying, the corporate world has responded with a countless number of lawsuits. And, outside of laws, the corporate machine uses terrorism frequently. For example, police officers raided the home of a sixteen year old programmer in Norway. The charge? Writing program code that allows someone to view a DVD on their computer, without a Windows environment. It was later painfully explained to the terrorists... ahem... the police officers, that it wasn't a crime in Norway, or... anywhere in the world. [EFFector, Vol. 13, No. 1, Jan. 25, 2000.] As of January, 2006, Finnish legislation will effectively prohibit people from circumventing copyright protections on DVDs for personal use -- and even the mainstream media criticized this new law, but the ruling party still decided to adopt the new law entirely. ["New copyright law approaches -- content to be removed," 26 December 2005 7:18 by dRD] It's just more evidence that our "democratic" institutions are being ruled by the rogue corporate world.

Macintosh computers are incapable of sharing files with each other, distributing music, or ... doing anything mildly creative. Macintosh computers are built so strong and well defended that they would make the builders of the Berlin Wall green with envy. Totalitarianism works best when we first constrain the distribution of information and knowledge throughout society. On this case, American apathy seems particularly high. Nobody in the American press seems that much concerned that their police officers are being used by corporate power for international terrorism.

How has the Macintosh corporation responded to electronic piracy? The first and last rule of Capitalism is profit. Since each Macintosh computer is like a Gestapo station, they don't have to worry about losing anything from piracy. Macintosh computers do not allow free and independent use of their systems. The computer language of the Macintosh computer is extremely restricted, limited to only licensed distributors. The corporate masters of Macintosh write to developers: "...if you wish to use Apple software, technologies and/or trademarks, you need to obtain a license from Apple to do so." ["Software Licensing & Trademark Agreements," Apple website: http://developer.apple.com/softwarelicensing/ ] Though I am not familiar with Apple ever blocking the licensing of a product because of its ideas, it would be a rare occasion, a practical living contradiction: authority would have the power and capability, but neither the will nor ambition.

Instead of taking down any piracy rings, a Macintosh affiliate actually has forty computers operating 24/7 on the LimeWire piracy network, distributing files at an unbelievable rate. They do not distribute any real files. These forty computers distribute files with titles like "StarWars," "Lord of the Rings," "The Usual Suspects," or just about any popular movie made in the past sixty years. Simply type in any word from the dictionary, and I bet you'll get at least one hit from (oddly enough) forty computers distributing the same file. However, they are not movies. They are all short eight second advertisements for ipods. Someone thinks they're downloading the best of Kubrick, and instead... "WIN A FREE IPOD!" The doubtful hacker can obviously tell fake files from real ones: these Macintosh advertisements are about 100 kilobytes, when real movies tend to be in the 500 to 700 megabyte zone. If the CEOs of Macintosh are ignorant of this, I'd be the first to doubt it. You can't simply set up a huge networked system with the intent of advertising on a piracy network, and then not draw attention to yourself. There are also several reports that Dimadsoft, a software producer, is distributing sabotaged versions of its programs as "cracked software." If this is true of one software developer, then one can imagine that there at least twenty others doing the same thing in its shadow.

This does open the window to some interesting legal battles, to any lawyer who has the time and energy. The Macintosh Corporation has just distributed its own logo, its own advertisement, and its own media, after signing a waiver that these materials are completely public domain, and free for distribution and reproduction by anyone. Good luck with whoever decides to run with this information to cause trouble for the Capitalist system in their own courts. Electronic piracy is here and it's here to stay. Macintosh has simply found a unique way to profit off of it... or at least piss off and annoy pirates.

We see how MacinCorp responds to the piracy network. How does the other computer juggernaught reply? How does Microsoft respond to people possibly not paying for ideas? One of the results is Windows XP, with an automatic update feature. If you turn it off, you get this message: "Your computer is more vulnerable to viruses and other security threats. Click Turn on Automatic Updates to have Windows automatically keep your computer current with important updates." That brings a thought to mind. From the dawn of civilization to our present day, all governments and states explain that their oppression is actually for security. I further investigated the automatic updated feature of Windows XP. I discovered that whatever "updates" it offers are actually spyware programs. The feature comes with the computer system automatically turned on, so the user doesn't know that their computer is broadcasting their files over the internet to Microsoft. Their effect and purpose is to disable, dismantle, and destroy any programs that may have been pirated. For example, automatic updates will disable most games that are cracked by Myth/Ethics. If you value your data and your privacy, you should disable this feature; that is, if you're working on a Microsoft Lockdown network.

Microsoft can probably come up with convincing enough rhetoric about these "security measures" they're taking. "These are programs installed by renegade coders," they might argue, "There is no reason to believe that anything about their software can be positive or helpful." That's true. But, he fails to mention something else: the same applies to other software. Microsoft's Word 2000 is a wonderful example. If you uninstall it from your computer, it rips out a huge chunk of the operating system's registry -- code that is essential for the basic running of your computer. After uninstalling Word 2000, it's damn near impossible to get any word processing program to operate, such as removing the "Create New Wordpad Document" feature. That's the case with Windows 98. I've yet to test it with other operating systems. But, it took a good three to four hours to get my system back to normal. Perhaps their reasoning is: "Well, if they uninstall it, they might try to return it. But, let's see them do that if their computer refuses to work without it!" One of the lines from State of Emergency is: "On Friday, your ration points are worth double at RocketBurger! Remember to serve the corporation." I think we're really pushing the point of irony at this point.

There are some very serious issues about Microsoft's idea of "privacy." Not only does their program examine the contents of your executable files, but it has reign over documents and written forms of communication. However, there is no confirmed evidence that Microsoft's Windows programs do anything more than disabling pirated code. Again, the potential is there. If you think I'm being paranoid, consider the PeaceFire group. It is an organization that works to establish freedom of speech and thought on the internet. One of the serious threats to electronic censorship is software that blocks certain websites based on their content. When one thinks of this software, though, they initially think that these programs are intended to protect children from pornography and other obscene materials. Of course the "intended and specified use" of such a program is going to be something to entice people to use it. They're never going to tell you that their website blocking software is going to prevent you from looking at websites aimed towards political, racial, religious, or cultural minorities. For example, the program BESS, in July of 1997, blocked the websites of the Illinois Federation for Human Rights (http://www.ifhr.org/). In a 1999 report, it was reported that they had banned the Institute of Australian Psychiatrists (http://www.iap.org.au/). Before the 2000 election, BESS had banned the websites of certain political candidates, effectively sabotaging the means of communication necessary for Democracy. BESS is installed in over 17,000 schools, affecting over 16 million students. ["Blind Ballots:

Web Sites of U.S. Political Candidates Censored by Censorware," Bennett Haselton, Jamie McCarthy, November 7, 2000.]

The program Cyber Patrol blocks gay rights and human rights websites. While they block progressive websites, they have systematically refused to block anti-gay websites, despite their statement to block hate sites, defined as "Pictures or text advocating prejudice or discrimination against any race, color, national origin, religion, disability or handicap, gender, or sexual orientation." WebSENSE is another particularly nasty filtering program. They blocked humanitarian websites, including a Spanish Red Cross chapter and a website for an organization on gambling addiction, as well as numerous religious and social minority websites. Net Nanny is responsible for blocking "information on sexually transmitted diseases, the politics of prostitution, and even a site about Adam and Eve." SmartFilter blocks the website for Community United Against Violence, the Feminist Majority Foundation, and National Abortion Rights Action League. The list of website blocking software and their egregious violation of the First Amendment goes on and on, with X-Stop, I-Gear, and Cybersitter. All of these sites have banned PeaceFire -- after all, any socially motivated body that opposes censorship is definitely an intimidating threat to the corporate world; plus, I bet you don't want your kids to read about a genuinely Democratic movement. The website on which this essay appears, www.punkerslut.com, has been blocked by numerous of the content blockers mentioned above. Nobody in the mainstream media, though, seems to be all too concerned about certain ideas being banned in society. According to the latest report by PeaceFire, China is using blocking software to prevent people from reading any page with the words "freedom", "democracy" and "Taiwan independence." PeaceFire provides instructions on disabling China's blocking software, in English and Chinese. [PeaceFire.com, June 20, 2005.]

When electronic piracy rings started to fire up, files referred to as roms and emulators also became extremely popular. Many of us, back in the day, were great fans of the Super Nintendo System, the twenty five cent arcades, and even the poorly animated graphics of the original Nintendo. Roms and emulators are their rebirth, providing all old school, classic gamers with an opportunity to travel back more than twenty years and beat Zelda all over again. A rom is a file that is the data off of the game cartridge; all gaming systems, like Nintendo and Sega, are technically computers, though by no means are they personal computers. An emulator is a program that allows one to play a rom. Roms for Nintendo games are usually 100 kilobytes or smaller, while Super Nintendo roms are anywhere between one and four megabytes. Piracy networks have sprung up distributing these files en masse. The emulators are programmed by pirates and "hobbyists" of old technology. All the tools necessary to play Sonic the Hedgehog to the Mario Brothers are widely available in p2p networks, underground piracy rings, or even the (generally speaking) sleazy parts of the internet. Most of this type of distribution goes under another category: abandonware. They are programs and data that are no longer any profit to the company that created them. This fact is undeniable; rarely does a company ever take action against a piracy network for distributing some program code that has maybe seven and a half years left of copyright protection. However, there are some cases popping up already. SquareSoft, for example, has been threatening legal action against online distributors of its Chrono Trigger series. There might be some justification for this, however. SquareSoft remarketed the Chrono Trigger game for the Playstation 1; they resold an old game that cost them nothing, even though the consumer was going to get technologically crippled software. In order to rip people off, it was necessary that nobody could get this old game for free. SquareSoft also used legal intimidation in getting other games removed.

Many of the piracy rings that distribute roms and emulators on their websites also often distribute cracked software and other legally questionable programs. To protect themselves, they use a variety of tactics. Disclaimers are frequent, such as, "Do not download a file unless you have a copy of the original." One popular disclaimer, appearing on over 10,000 websites (over 100,000 matches on Google), is to warn the websurfer that if they are part of an anti-piracy group and they enter their website, they would "violate code 431.322.12 of the Internet Privacy Act signed by Bill Clinton in 1995." The phrase is just gibberish; Bill Clinton never signed an "Internet Privacy Act." The Snopes rumor-investigating website does a good review of the claim: http://www.snopes.com/legal/privacy.htm . However, there is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986. In it, we find...

Whenever any wire or oral communication has been intercepted, no part of the contents of such communication and no evidence derived therefrom may be received in evidence in any trial, hearing, or other proceeding in or before any court, grand jury, department, officer, agency, regulatory body, legislative committee, or other authority of the United States, a State, or a political subdivision thereof if the disclosure of that information would be in violation of this chapter. [ECPA; TITLE 18. Crimes and Criminal Procedures, Part 1: Crimes, Chapter 119: Wire and Electronic Communications Interception and Interception of Oral Communications, Sec. 2515. Prohibition of use as evidence of intercepted wire or oral communications.]

If this is true, then how did SquareSoft "use legal intimidation" in getting these roms removed from the internet? Newspapers and other journals always use phrases like "to file suit," or "to take them to court," or "to take legal action." The exact processes involved here are never clearly explained to the public, however. The ECPA guarantees that intercepted data obtained from communications lines is inadmissible in any court or ruling body in the United States. The only way that a civil or criminal case can use evidence is when there is a warrant for wiretapping or other interception methods. Anti-piracy groups, such as the Software & Information Industry Association, will gather data on these communications lines, but how is it admissible in court -- where it would be necessary to prove a case? After all, when any of these anti-piracy agents monitor bandwidth exchanges, they only have IP addresses, never names. And, even if they could get names, how could they use this evidence in court? Well, the music and movie industry responded to the "lack of sufficient evidence" in style: they filed several thousand lawsuits against one unpopular man, John Doe. They provided IP addresses to the courts, thinking that it would require the internet service providers to provide names to each one. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the music and movie industry has no legal leverage: they cannot force an internet service provider to give names and dates of its customer's activity. ["Recording industry group announces wave of legal action against piracy," AP WorldStream via COMTEX, posted: 03/30/04 @06:58.] Besides, it would violate the above-quoted passage of the ECPA.

Legally, it might seem very well like the empire doesn't have much footing. Legislators are taking to the idea that file-sharing networks aren't much different than Xerox machines. They allow the copying and sharing of data between two people, so long as one of those people holds the copyright to the material. Most anti-piracy groups have to rely on another method for extracting names and other data from internet service providers. What they do lies between harassment and terrorism. They file frivolous lawsuits against people they wish to target. The intent of the lawsuits are never to seek the desired end, i.e., a positive judgment or an out of court settlement. The lawsuits are made for the sake of acquiring evidence to help the advance of other criminal and civil trials. Again, the anti-piracy sector of the corporate world is bordering on crimes like Obstruction of Justice. Corporations have a great deal in preventing piracy rings where there is a profit to be made, where one person gains wealth by the trading. But, they still seem to have problems with any group that exchanges media at all, targetting many of these free distributors of roms, emulators, mp3s, and cracked programs. Capitalism will always seek to defend its profit; in this case, the casualty happens to be Democracy.

Part 3 - Art Isn't Free

"Today I want to talk about piracy and music. What is piracy? Piracy is the act of stealing an artist's work without any intention of paying for it. I'm not talking about Napster-type software. I'm talking about major label recording contracts."

-- Courtney Love ["Courtney Love does the math," by Courtney Love, June 14, 2000.]

The whole file-sharing idea was first put in the spotlight with the Napster scandal. International communities of people giving each other free music was a rather notorious and dark-spirited image, at least, to our corporate masters. Napster was taken down, but at least twenty other networks started up to replace it: Kazaa, Songspy, LimeWire, Soulseek, Gnutella, etc., etc., with our most recent program, Bittorrent. At first, it was only music. The bulk of files transferred in these networks is now video: movies, music videos, documentaries, television shows, pornography, everything good and tasteful. There are books and manuals of every subject, photographs and articles on every topic, and cracked software. There are cracked computer games and ripped off accounting programs. Roms and emulators have allowed people to go back and appreciate the technology and literature of twenty years ago. There is even some valid suggestion that distribution of the show Family Guy was partly responsible for popularizing the program, forcing producers to bring it back to television. To say that these piracy networks are devoid of creative influence would be a great misjudgment. We have to thank hackers like IceyFlamez, Geophage, and countless others for their distribution of video media.

How much does a musician make from their contract with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)? Courtney Love writes: "If all of the million records are sold at full price with no discounts or record clubs, the band earns $2 million in royalties, since their 20 percent royalty works out to $2 a record. Two million dollars in royalties minus $2 million in recoupable expenses equals ... zero! How much does the record company make? They grossed $11 million." ["Courtney Love does the math."] A few sentences later, she summarizes the economic disposition of the contracted artist: "...the band may as well be working at a 7-Eleven." RIAA maintains a virtual monopoly over the music industry. If a musician is interested in selling their artwork, they must first submit to economic exploitation. Their creativity is going to generate income for those who did no labor, but simply possessed a monopoly on the industry. Second, since it is the main publishing organ of the United States for music media, it creates a censoring filter, preventing the American people from hearing certain ideas and philosophies. Henry Demarest Lloyd once wrote: "Government by the people is only a half truth; the other half is industry of, by, and for the people. If brotherhood is the true 'spirit of the hive' here, it must be so there." ["Lords of Industry," by Henry Demarest Lloyd, 1910, chapter 10.] That is especially true in this case. When most of the money spent on purchasing an album goes to the RIAA, that means that it is going to the corporation that is directly responsible for causing the misery of our revered musicians. By buying music in a music store, we are supporting those who keep the figures of our culture in poverty. If you want true justice, you'll stop paying for music until things change.

It is possible for us to get technical about the RIAA's thievery. In 1995, they sold 1.11 billion units. In 1996, it was 1.14 billion. Then it went to 1.06, 1.12, 1.16, and 1.08 in 2000. Between 1995 and 2000, the RIAA distributed 6.67 billion units. [ * RIAA Marketing Data in the website: http://www.riaa.com/news/marketingdata/ ] How much the price fixing went is not quite understood. If, say, they added only $1 to each CD, that would be $6.67 billion dollars stolen from the public in the time of the price-fixing ring (or, at least at the time of this specific price-fixing ring). But, a much more accurate estimate might be something like 33.35 billion dollars, stolen from the public in this price fixing scheme. Instead of paying the amount of money that they are responsible for stealing, it was settled out of court, for $64.7 million dollars and $75.7 million dollars worth of CDs. [* "Music Cos. Settle U.S. Price-Fixing Case," Monday, September 30, 2002, Reuters.] Okay, so maybe a little bit of justice was done... oh, wait, no, the story's not finished. The $75.7 million dollars worth of CDs that they planned to distribute to libraries and schools? Well... One library received 1,235 copies of Whitney Houston's 1991 recording of "The Star-Spangled Banner," plus 375 copies of "Entertainment Weekly: The Greatest Hits 1971." That trend of sending "music" was pretty much stable for all of the music they gave away. One librarian said: "We definitely have duplicates and we have a lot of plain - is there a nicer word than junk?" [* "CD settlement delivers duds," Associated Press and Gannett, Wisconsin Newspapers, Thu, Jul 22, 2004.]

So, the music industry rips the American public off for $33 billion in cash, pays only $60 million back, and then dumps bins of garbage on to our schools and public libraries. But, wait... the story still doesn't end there. In 2004, police officers conducted raids on over twelve premises. [* "Record industry enforcer raids Kazaa offices," by Sam Varghese, February 6, 2004.] Instead of shutting down the Kazaa network, the network is kept running, distributing faulty, illegitimate files en masse, like the counterpart MacinCorp. There was no tallied data on how much money these piracy networks cost the music industry. The RIAA's sales seemed pretty stable, always reaching a little over a billion each year. The corporations of the world can conduct operations outside the realm of the law for $100 or so million in lost profits -- just as an estimate. Our police officers, the defenders of the public, were willing enough to defend a mega-corporation; but, they stood idly by when the RIAA stole over thirty billion dollars from the public. The ultimate price of Capitalism is not just our souls, our way of life, or the happiness of the public. The ultimate price of Free Enterprise is Democracy. We're living in a corporation-dominated world. And the police, the CIA, the FBI, and the government are all willing to jump on board for their payoffs and their kickbacks.

The amount the RIAA stole from the public during its monopoly ring, an estimated 30 billion, is about 0.002% of the amount they ended up paying back. That is, of course, according to the most conservative estimates. As far as the data is concerned, the RIAA could be responsible for stealing upwards of 40 or 50 billion from the public during this time -- it just really depends at what point you call it "price-fixing" and at what point you call it "profit." The RIAA defends itself on its website with: "If CD prices had risen at the same rate as consumer prices over this period, the average retail price of a CD in 1996 would have been $33.86 instead of $12.75." [* RIAA Marketing Data on the website: http://www.riaa.com/news/marketingdata ] I suppose we are lucky. We could be living in an even more corporate world where CDs aren't ten times more expensive than they should be, but thirty times! Maybe there is a way to translate what they're saying. It might be, "Even though our cost of production hasn't risen one cent, everyone's increasing their costs, so that means we have a right to charge you $33 a CD. But, you're lucky you're not having to pay that." American corporations are a unique kind of tyranny. They always rely on the "chasing a hotdog on a stick" theory when it comes to dealing with any social unrest, whether it's racial conflicts of the 60's or pirates getting illegally detained by the police.

They are attacking P2P networks today, because it is no longer fashionable to burn down libraries. A free society is a threat to corporations, especially when these corporations gain their power from us needing them. The strings that make us dance are being cut. And, naturally, the oppressor has responded with the vigor and strength that the slavery of the majority has given them. China has put a veil over the eyes of more than one billion people, when it comes to learning about Democracy. At the same time, American schools are using those same techniques to prevent students from learning about the same idea: human rights, social justice, and equality. Where is the justification in electronic piracy? There is no need to defend music piracy: the RIAA still owes the public several billion dollars. Besides, the RIAA is responsible for keeping brilliant and talented artists in dire poverty. Buying albums might support the band a little, but it supports the corporate giant responsible for making all of our artists poor and censored. The present situation in the music culture of America is painful and unjust. Resistance is the only course of action. If individuals like Margaret Sanger, Martin Luther King Jr., or Susan B. Anthony agreed to follow the law, then their admirers wouldn't be inspired enough to overthrow it.


For Life,


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About Article Author


Punkerslut (or Andy Carloff) has been writing essays and poetry on social issues which have caught his attention for several years. His website www.punkerslut.com provides a complete list of all of these writings. His life experience includes homelessness, squating in New Orleans and LA, dropping out of high school, getting expelled from college for "subversive activities," and a myriad of other revolutionary actions.

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