A few weeks ago, there was a lot of attention paid to the story of how the RIAA had spent $17 million and got back $391,000 in settlements. The RIAA is now defending its legal strategy by claiming that the lawsuits had other benefits, such as injunctions against certain sites and (my favorite) to “foster a respect for the rights of creators.” It’s difficult to see how that’s working, as the legal strategy has not only mobilized many music fans against the RIAA and ridiculous copyright laws, but has even gotten top musicians to speak out against the RIAA and its views on copyright. On top of that, given the continued increase in file sharing usage, the whole claim is a joke.
Separately, though, the RIAA says that the numbers are misleading because “sometimes recoveries go directly to record label plaintiffs.”
But that raises a different question. If the labels are getting this money… has any of it been passed on to artists? In the discussion on the original story, we had one commenter, who works as an auditor in the music licensing field, who pointed this out and noted that this money isn’t going to artists or songwriters at all. We had pointed this out back in 2006, when part of the Google buyout of YouTube involved paying off the big record labels… and that deal was structured in a way that those labels didn’t have to share that money with artists.
We’ve already seen how record label accounting is used to screw over musicians, but this is an important point as well. The RIAA positions itself as defending artists’ rights. It talks about how these lawsuits are carried out to protect musicians and help those musicians earn a living. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that of the money that actually comes in from these lawsuits, very little of it ever is seen by the artists the labels claim they’re protecting.