Sony BMG: Making One Copy of a Song You Own for Yourself Is Stealing

Illustration for article titled Sony BMG: Making One Copy of a Song You Own for Yourself Is Stealing

If you weren't aware, the first jury trial for copyright infringement via file-sharing, Capitol Records, et al v. Jammie Thomas, is currently underway, with the RIAA and multiple labels seeking $1.2 million in damages against Thomas. The labels' first witness, Jennifer Pariser, head of litigation for Sony BMG, offered testimony that pretty much encapsulates everything wrong with the way the RIAA sees things. When asked if it was wrong for consumers to make a single copy of music they've purchased, she responded, "When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." Making "a copy" of a song you bought is "a nice way of saying 'steals just one copy.' "


Thanks for clearing that up, Jennifer. It's nice to know I "stole" the wallet of copied CDs in my car, which I burned from my purchased discs precisely because I'm paranoid about the real set I paid for getting jacked. Guess that also makes the multiple copies of tracks I have spread across multiple computers dirty, thieved contraband. Raise your hand, fellow criminals. [Ars via Consumerist, Image via Flickr]


@Bokusatsu_Tenshi said:

>> Artists must be valued, but the way it happens today is just

>> too much, it's extreme and out of control. People go rich over a single

>> (and not rarely shitty) record or music. Not only go a little rich, but like

>> get rich for 4 or 5 generations.

bzzzzzt. wrong. Artists make squat on their first album, typically having to repay the record label for recording and touring advances first. Usually the same applies to their second album as well depending on the contract. In my Entertainment Law class we broke it down and an artist/band typically will net about $100,000 for a hit debut album. If it's a band, divide by each member to see how much a person takes home.

Now if an act is successful and gets to the point that they've satisfied the contract, e.g., recording two or three albums or whatever the contract calls for, then they can negotiate the terms for a new contract and that's where the money comes from.

You'd probably be sickened by what the companies pull. First, all the money goes to the label and they then dole out the royalties to the band. For example, because LPs used to break, contracts used to only calculate band royalties on 85% of the albums shipped, assuming that 15% of them would break. That behavior carried over to tapes and to CDs so labels kept holding back royalties. They also took fees and advances made to the band out before calculating royalties so instead of giving the band 12% of say $500,000, the label holds back the $100,000 they advanced the band for recording the album. Then they calculate the 12% royalty on only 85% of the albums (see above), and they keep slicing and dicing until the artists get virtually nothing from each album sale.

Check out this book (one of our "textbooks" for the class):

All you need to know about the music business