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Archive for September, 2003

Support Families in the Defense Fund

Tuesday, September 30th, 2003

Thank you for visiting Downhill Battle. Our website is about music, politics, and how we can work to change the music business for the better. Like most people, we were shocked when we heard that the record companies were going to start suing music fans. And after talking with many of the families that are being sued, we worked to create the Peer-to-Peer Legal Defense Fund to help them defend themselves and get on with their lives.

The record industry’s lawsuits aren’t just another business strategy, they’re hurting real people and undermining families’ financial security during what are already tough times.

Here’s a message we received two days ago from a mother who’s family is being sued:

“My husband and I both work full time to make ends meet. We have 4
children: one in college, one in high school, one in middle school, and
one in grade school. We are middle class and live from paycheck to
paycheck. We are good, honest people. This lawsuit has devastated us.”

This is just one of the many stories we’ve heard of people who are reeling from these suits. We see the Defense Fund as a real opportunity for people to rally around everyone who’s been sued and help end the record industry’s campaign of intimidation and bullying. We hope you will join in opposing these lawsuits and make a donation to one of the families or individuals that are being targeted. Go to the Defense Fund.

The Peer-to-Peer Legal Defense Fund

Monday, September 29th, 2003

Downhill Battle is very proud to announce the Peer-to-Peer Legal Defense Fund. The fund was created to support the families and individuals that have been sued by the record companies and to help fight the RIAA suits. The Defense Fund’s contribution system runs on a peer-to-peer model: rather than collecting contributions centrally and later distributing them, donors give directly to a family or individual that’s been sued. Our open source software tracks donations and rotates the name that appears in the contribution box so that the person with the lowest contributions so far is presented to potential donors. Over time, contributions are distributed evenly without the need for a middleman.

We hope you’ll join the fight against the RIAA lawsuits by making a contribution to one of the people who’s been sued.

Here’s a quote from a message we received this morning. It illustrates once again how difficult these suits are for the people that have been targeted.

“My husband and I both work full time to make ends meet. We have 4
children: one in college, one in high school, one in middle school, and
one in grade school. We are middle class and live from paycheck to
paycheck. We are good, honest people. This lawsuit has devastated us. We
have had to hire a lawyer to answer this lawsuit. We do not have the
financial or emotional resources to fight this, and we can only hope that
we settle this quickly and not too painfully.”

Remember, the lawsuits are the bad news, but music is always the good news. Fujichia Records, our favorite label, is still making beautiful websites, music, and more: Cool Breeze MP3 and Jacob Berendes MP3

p.s. If anyone would like to make a flyer for the Defense Fund, that would be great. We’re thinking of a quarter-pager that people could hand out a concerts and other events. Don’t forget to remind people not to buy major label CDs!

Lawsuit Targets Can’t Afford a Defense

Friday, September 26th, 2003

THE MAJOR LABELS ARE running a tactical scare campaign: they want everyone to hear about the lawsuits, but they don’t want anyone to hear how the suits are really affecting families. One mother wrote to us, “We are hardly in a position to pay the price to the recording industry as their sacrificial lamb…We feel victimized and angry, but mostly we feel hurt. We are good, honest, hardworking people (my husband works 2 jobs, I work 1) who have never stolen anything, and to be touted as thieves is the ultimate insult.”

Most people who were sued can’t afford to go to court to defend themselves and many are afraid to talk openly about how terrible the suits have been because the RIAA could up their settlement costs at any time. For there to be real opposition, the millions of us who oppose the RIAA lawsuits will have to stop being spectators and step into the ring. If we make noise for all those who’ve been sued and give the people who want to fight in court the resources to do so, we can make these lawsuits fail. Now if only there was a way to get support directly to the people who’ve been targeted…

In unrelated news, expect a big announcement from Downhill Battle on Monday morning.

Corporate Giants Stomping on Families

Wednesday, September 17th, 2003

NICHOLAS AND I SPENT the past two days talking to people who’ve been
sued by the record labels. Each conversation was a glimpse into the exact dimensions of the
wound that the filesharing lawsuits are leaving in someone’s life. As we
listened to each story, we got progressively more and more angry. The
RIAA is using lawsuits to “shift public views on intellectual
property,” or to “teach a lesson.” But the people being sued are not
just units of some amorphous public opinion that the record companies
can push in a certain direction. They’re real people with real lives and now they’re being stomped on by corporate giants.

Today I talked to a woman, my age, who is single and has two daughters.
She does not have money to spare so that the major labels can make their
political point and now suddenly, out of the blue, she’s facing thousands of dollars in legal costs. I talked to a couple who are going through a divorce,
and, as if they didn’t have enough burdens already, there’s
the weight of a million-dollar lawsuit. Another woman who lost her job this
month told an RIAA lawyer that she didn’t have any money. The lawyer
responded snidely, “Well you could afford your broadband
account…” Who the hell says something like that? Who are these people?

Somewhere, in the board rooms of these entertainment behemoths, men making
7-figure salaries are looking at these lawsuits in cold, strategic
terms. All of the people we talked to today are just moves in a
chess game to them. This arrogance is appalling and we have to combat
it head on. The record companies are playing a public
opinion game. That means that we, the public, have the power to make
sure indiscriminate scare-suits are a strategy that fails.
-HW

HELP FIGHT: The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a petition to oppose these lawsuits. Please take a moment to sign it. And keep looking here over the next couple weeks for a LOT more ways to fight these lawsuits…it’s about to get rowdy.

IF YOU’VE BEEN SUED: Do not negotiate directly with the RIAA or the record companies, even though they list that lawyer’s name and number to call. You need your own lawyer to assess the situation. Contact the EFF at 415-436-9333 to get referred to a lawyer, and also feel free to contact us (we are not lawyers but may be able to help in other ways).

Major Labels Sue a 12 Year Old

Friday, September 12th, 2003

THERE ARE MANY
REASONS

not to buy major label music. This week, the major labels gave us one
more: when you buy a CD, or download a song from iTunes, you’re
supporting an industry that’s suing 12-year-olds. The lawsuits threaten
families with wildly inflated damages–up to $150,000 per song. Any
household that decides to fight risks losing their hopes of a college
education, their home. Then the RIAA’s lawyers offer a $3,000 settlement.
It might be more than 3 months’ rent, or a winters’ heating bill, and they
might prepare a humiliating written statement for you to
recite to the
press, but at least you don’t lose everything. It is very unlikely that
any of these cases will be tried.

A consortium of p2p software companies has given 12-year-old Brianna
Lahara from Brooklyn $2,000. But more than 200 other students, families,
and senior citizens still face similar suits. Downhill Battle has looked
into the possibility of creating a defense fund, and we’ve think we’ve
worked it out. It’s Paypal-based, transparent, and “peer-to-peer,” so
none of the money will go through us. We’re looking into some legal
details and we hope to make an announcement about it by Monday. If you or
anyone you know has been targeted, please contact us.

Many major-label musicians have come out in opposition to the lawsuits,
according to an article

in Thursday’s San Francisco Chronicle. Everyone should read it; musicians
and music fans are really on the same side.

Record Companies Sue 261 Music Fans

Monday, September 8th, 2003

TODAY THE MAJOR LABELS formally announced the filing of 261 lawsuits against music fans. While suing customers may be a new low, the record industry is really just following its standard operating procedure: coerce musicians and music fans into participating in a system that no one likes or needs.

Consumers are just starting to realize how ruthless the major labels are, but musicians have known it for years. The average band on a major label receives only $0.80 on each CD sold, and they don’t even get that money until they “recoup” inflated recording and promotion costs–many musicians never see their first 80 cents. But because major labels pay radio stations to play songs, musicians can’t reach a large audience without accepting a crappy contract. “Pay-for-play” is a coercive, anti-competitive practice that keeps independent bands off the radio (you can read more about the record industry on our resources page).

When artists are getting less than a dollar from each $16 CD and the record labels are suing families, people just can’t feel good about buying music. But instead of working to change their corrupt industry and win back the support of fans and musicians, the major labels are further alienating both groups and hastening their own collapse. Since the industry first threatened lawsuits, the decline in CD sales has actually accelerated– the industry might stop some filesharing, but it won’t win back any customers.

Every time someone buys a major label CD, they fund the record industry’s attack on music fans and independent musicians. But if we just stop buying, we can break the major label’s grip on music and build a new music business that lets fans support artists directly.

Sony’s Porn Hypocrisy

Sunday, September 7th, 2003

SONY MUSIC PRESIDENT ANDREW LACK and the RIAA have a new strategy: they’re trying to smear filesharing by saying it spreads pornography. Sudden hypocritical moralizing from the record industry might come as a surprise to anyone who doesn’t know just how desperate the major labels are for someone to defend them. If they can get a near hysterical anti-porn advocate to accuse Kazaa of “attacking children” “just like Joe Camel”, then they’ll take it, ’cause really they don’t have much else. You can read the New York Times article here.

Since the only counter-point in the article is a self-interested Kazaa lobbyist, we felt compelled to respond. We’ve issued a press release and we made a web page which outlines Sony’s hypocrisy and lists examples of pornographic lyrics in Sony Music recordings: SONY PORN.

(We put the page up on a separate site so that Sony’s lyrics don’t get downhillbattle.org blocked by filtering software.)

Also take a look at this really good article/commentary from a parent and filesharing advocate at p2pnet.

Monopolies are Bad for Markets

Monday, September 1st, 2003

LAST THURSDAY, the Webcaster Alliance filed a lawsuit against the five major labels, and their mouthpiece the RIAA, for anti-competitive royalty pricing that might destroy web radio. Everyone should show support and, if you can, give some money. They need it, they’re going up against a monopoly.

Monopolies are bad for markets and bad for the common good: they distort prices and incentives, suppress new ideas, and manipulate everyone they do business with. That’s the point of having a monopoly, or in the record companies’ case a cartel– everyone is forced to play by your rules and you can take as big a cut as you want. People keep pointing out to us that Apple couldn’t have started a music service without the major labels. They’re right: Apple wanted to sell music online, so they had to accept the record cartel’s terms. But by accepting their terms, Apple became complicit in their system.

This isn’t the first time the major labels have been sued. But lawsuits can’t always break up entrenched monopolies (remember when the Justice Department broke up Microsoft’s monopoly?)– sometimes the only way to kill a monopoly is to stop buying their stuff. But the public is usually powerless in these situations; we depend on the monopoly’s product and don’t have other options. It was always that way for the music industry, but it just changed. Filesharing and CD burning actually give us a way to end the major label monopoly. This never happens! That’s what’s so exciting: if we stop buying their CDs for just a few years, the cartel will vanish and the music business can grow into a real economy where musicians are in control.

……………..

A LOT OF PEOPLE have been telling us that they’re already putting up flyers, which is awesome– we got this from the Assistant Director of a major American art museum(!!)

“printing flyers as I write. Jeepers, I probably shouldn’t be doing this from work.”

That got us psyched and this week we want to go big with the flyers. Cities, small towns, America, other countries, streets, dorms, jobs. And definitely send a picture of your handiwork. Also, if you use wheatpaste, your flyer will stay up til next summer.

Updates:
Barcode flyer – from DX. Hot.
Resources Page – the music industry’s ugly past and beautiful future.
Great new flyers – from Goofy and MCW.

-DB