As we say goodbye to March and look forward to the continued fight against the RIAA with renewed vigor, we asked the EFF to give us some tips on how to keep this battle raging in the best way possible. So here, straight from the front-line fighers at the EFF, is a renewed call to arms.
Standing Up to the RIAA
Our first tip: be magnanimous about your impending victory.
The biggest trick the RIAA pulls is to convince legislators, the media and technology users that it's viewpoint is so compelling that there's no valid (or even legal) opposition to their behavior, and the general public should give up, and suck down burdens like DRM, endless lawsuits, patronizing anti-piracy warnings and consumer-unfriendly legislation.
In the language of the entertainment industry, fencing in legitimate activity like this is called "educating the end-user." But recently, those end-users have been doing some schooling of their own. Consumer-unfriendly practices get punished in the marketplace and every threat against an innocent child or a pensioner generates terrible publicity. Meanwhile non-paranoid business models succeed, and entertainers who treat their fans well do better than those who treat new opportunities like incoming missiles.
The RIAA's tactics are outdated and failing. It can't go on forever. Of course, it's gone on far too long already, and you're right to be frustrated at the collateral damage you have to suffer along the way. The good news is: There's plenty of ways to speed things up. It may be a downhill battle, but that doesn't mean you
still can't have fun oiling the sled.
Move the Market
Support for DRM is dying in the music industry. In tests, two-thirds of Euro music executives think about dropping DRM. Between being taunted by Steve Jobs, being sued in the face over rootkits and watching eMusic and its companions surround their lousy DRM offerings, they've been getting that message. Rub it in with your dollars.
Dig past the marketing, and learn about the DRM at your online music store. When buying hardware, find out and complain about copy controls and equipment that doesn't provide "unprotected" outputs. Encourage your favorite magazines and blogs to cover the downsides of burnt-in DRM. In short: Do what you do already. Then get your friends to do it too.
Fight for Copyright Reform
The greatest damage that the RIAA causes is when it whispers into the government's ear that even more legal shackles for technology and users are necessary. Read about what's being proposed—bills like The PERFORM Act, a backdoor assault on your right to record off the radio. Support reforms like the FAIR USE act. It doesn't cure all of copyright's ills, but it does get rid of statutory damages in cases against gadget makers. That means that the rightsholders can't hold the insane threat of $30,000 per infringement over innovators' heads.
Been there and done that? Then pick up the phone and call your rep for a little personal chat. Just take a couple of minutes to write down what your concerns are — excessive RIAA lawsuits, the DMCA anti-circumvention rules, the new webcasting fees, the attempts to kill home recording by suing XM and Sirius. Politely spell out your concerns, and ask for a written reply that explains what your rep plans to do about it.
If you're really serious, meet your representative in person. It's not as hard as you think. If a politician visits your college or workplace ask a question about the music industry's behavior (and if a representative of the RIAA or MPAA turn up, try asking some of our Frequently Awkward Questions. They love 'em.) Google your congressperson's local town hall meeting hours. If you're in Washington on business during a session, mail them to say you'll drop in. Don't worry about the details of policy: Just talk about how it affects you (and your business, or your opportunities). At the end of your chat, send their staff to speak to us, or to Public Knowledge in Washington, or to the Digital Freedom campaign to find out more.
Be polite and respectful: Every ordinary-looking voter who says that this is
what they worry about makes politicians reconsider the propaganda they're
Use your social network. If everyone is six degrees away from everyone else, someone in your family or your social network is one hop closer to whoever represents you in Congress. The RIAA paints its opposition as evil, cutlass-wielding criminals. Five minutes talking sense with a friendly face makes congresscritters a lot harder to sway with its propaganda.
Stand by Your Rights
Use 'em or lose 'em. Demand products with the features that the music industry would love to ban: that make space-shifting, or analog output reproduction, or off-the-air recording, easy and affordable. Rip those CDs to within an inch of lives for use on your portable player or home computer. Learn and understand about [fair
use](http://www.chillingeffects.org/fairuse/faq.cgi "Chilling Effect's Fair Use FAQ"). Sample and excerpt away for parody or educational use, and use YouTube or another video-sharing site to share your works when you do. Support your local library: Librarians are a powerful voice in asserting reasonable copyright law. Buy sell, and trade those secondhand CDs: It will remind you of the power of the first-sale doctrine, and will make you madder than hell if they come to take it away. It also lets you buy RIAA-connected music without contributing to their sales figures.
If you don't exercise those rights, you're playing the game how the RIAA want you to play it: defensively. It's time to go on the offense.
It'll take more than a month, but we're in for a long haul, and time — and technology — is on your side.