A investigative report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation is available that describes the progress, or lack of progress that the RIAA is having in its "Rain of Fire" campaign of suing the file sharing public.
Over 15,000 individuals have been attacked to date by this trade organization in the name of copyright infringement. The results have not stopped, or even slowed down, the widespread filesharing that continues to grow on P2P and other networks.
Filesharing is more popular than ever with billions of files being traded monthly. Market research firm Big Champaign reports that the amount of traffic on P2P networks doubled between Setpember 2003 (when the lawsuits began) and June 2005. The RIAA’s campaign is simply not working.
People have discovered filesharing and like it very much. They are not only trading files on P2P networks but also via instant messaging, a huge phenomenon that can’t even be measured. When you combine social networking sites like myspace.com with instant messaging the number of files being traded explodes. Why does this have to be bad for the music business? Filesharing has been shown to be a key driver of music discovery. Why can’t we harness this? There has to be a better way.
"There is a better way. EFF has been advocating a voluntary collective licensing regime as a mechanism that would fairly compensate artists and rightsholders for P2P file sharing. The concept is simple: the music industry forms a collecting society, which then offers file-sharing music fans the opportunity to “get legit” in exchange for a reasonable regular payment, say $5 per month. So long as they pay, the fans are free to keep doing what they are going to do anyway—share the music they love using whatever software they like on whatever computer platform they prefer—without fear of lawsuits. The money collected gets divided among rights-holders based on the popularity of their music. In exchange, file-sharing music fans who pay (or have their ISP or software provider or other intermediary pay on their behalf) will be free to download whatever they like, using whatever software works best for them. The more people share, the more money goes to rights-holders. The more competition in P2P software, the more rapid the innovation and improvement. The more freedom to fans to publish what they care about, the deeper the catalog.
This has been successfully done before. For almost 100 years, collecting societies like ASCAP, BMI and SESAC have been collecting fees on song reproductions and performances, beginning with royalties for the publication of sheet music and expanding, as necessary to include new formats, such as broadcast radio, jukeboxes, TV, “elevator music,” and movies. Some lawsuits would still be necessary, the same way that spot checks on the subway are necessary in cities that rely on an “honor system” for mass transit. But the lawsuits will no longer be aimed at singling out music fans for multi-thousand dollar punishments in order to “make an example” of them. They will no longer be intended to drive fans into the arms of inferior, over-priced alternatives.
Instead, the system would reinforce the rule of law—by giving fans the chance to pay a small monthly fee for P2P file sharing, a voluntary collection system creates a way for fans to “do the right thing” along with a realistic chance that the majority will actually be able to live up to the letter of the law."