RIAA Clearing Music Scalawags from the Decks

The latest music-piracy statistics have just been released by the RIAA, bringing to light several new wrinkles in the ongoing struggle to protect the owners of music copyrights from those who illegally copy and sell protected works. Released August 21, the report details the new problems brought about by CD-R technology and MP3 files distributed via the web.

According to the report, the first six months of 1998 have seen law enforcement confiscate an "extraordinary" number of unauthorized CD-Rs compared to the same period last year. With the advent of new and inexpensive CD-R hardware and blank discs, the RIAA sees proliferation of unauthorized music on CD-Rs as a major threat.

"Piracy in this format is proving to be the next big boom," stated Steve D'Onofrio, RIAA executive vice president and director of anti-piracy. "The RIAA is forcefully applying its civil and criminal programs to beat these elusive pirates, who can set up shop in a kitchen for a few thousand dollars. We're seeing unauthorized CD-Rs that are being manufactured and distributed in the DJ community, for sale in retail locations across the country and via the Internet."

The statistics reveal that the RIAA confiscated 23,858 unauthorized CD-Rs during the first half of 1998, compared to 87 in the same period last year. The report states that "this is a significant number, as CD-R pirates have less inventory than cassette or CD pirates because of the 'burn on demand' nature of CD-R piracy. These individuals typically work in their homes---filling specific orders---not in large warehouses or underground factories."

A total of 133,215 counterfeit and pirate CDs (excluding CD-Rs) were confiscated during the first of half of 1998, more than 10 times the number recovered at midyear 1997. Sixty percent of all product seized was Latin repertoire. Although cassette seizures have declined 44% since June 1996, the numbers jumped more than 20% from midyear 1997. The RIAA attributes this year's increase to the crackdown on unauthorized DJ mixes in the DJ community, where cassettes are the format of choice for music pirates.

The association also reported substantial increases in online piracy and unveiled a university educational campaign, expanded its Internet enforcement team, and sued two more Internet sites. "We're continuing to step up our Internet enforcement program to foster a legitimate marketplace for sound recordings," said D'Onofrio. "Our role is to protect the artists, musicians, songwriters, and record companies who create the content."

Using internet investigators armed with webcrawlers and other web-tech methods, the RIAA says it is scanning the Internet for infringing sites. As a result, they have sent hundreds of "educational/warning" letters addressing thousands of sites that were violating artist and record-company rights. In May, the association sued two music archive sites that were illegally distributing full-length songs for download. The two sites have been shut down, and the defendants have agreed to enter into a preliminary injunction.