Tuesday, June 23, 2009

RIAA confuse jury with focus group

To be fair, the RIAA have so far avoided indulging in mindless triumphalism over the results of the Jammie Thomas case - mainly, I suspect, because the stupid sum in damages is so indefensible, anyone looking at it for very long would see whatever the legal rights, there's something morally out-of-whack there.

However, Joshua Friedlander can't resist, and has written a think-piece for the RIAA blog. He starts by rambling about how many focus groups the RIAA hold to try and work out what people want:

Last week we got a chance to listen to one of these groups outside the usual circumstances. It wasn’t a research project, and it wasn’t by sitting behind a two-way mirror. This group of 12 industry outsiders likely hadn’t engaged in debates about long-tail sales theories, the effectiveness of DRM schemes, or consumption patterns of digital media when marginal costs approach zero. Which isn’t to say they were disengaged – most of them had mp3 players, and at least some knew what peer-to-peer software was. But overall, they were probably a good cross section of ‘real world’ music listeners.

We’re speaking, of course, of the 12-person jury in Minneapolis who rendered a decision in the case involving Ms. Jammie Thomas-Rasset (http://www.riaa.com/newsitem.php?id=67AC2E75-E62A-1823-9604-FD0F15EF0F63). This group of 12 Minnesotans showed us that, despite the protestations of some pundits who suggest that the digital world should resemble some kind of new wild west, the majority understands and believes that the same laws and rules we follow every day apply online. Not just in theory, but in practice. Another group of 12 people presented with similar questions said the same thing two years ago. That makes a sample size of only 24, but it’s certainly enough to learn from.

But hang on a moment, Joshua - this wasn't a focus group, and they weren't being asked their opinion. They were a jury - and part of being on a jury is that you are expected to set aside your beliefs about the legislation and approach it as a law.

You can approach this as some sort of focus group, but all it really tells you is that 12 people believed that Thomas had done what she was accused of; not that they believe copyright law is correct. In fact, as you state yourself, Joshua, these are people who haven't followed the debate, who aren't engaged with the questions - so if it was a focus group on copyright law, they were pretty poorly placed to offer a considered opinion.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is "‘real world’ music listeners" another way of saying "ill-informed chumps"? Like you say they found her guilty of doing what she was accused. They were not making a decision about how the music world should work. If these people were informed of how few rights they have relating to music would they say the same thing?

I'd love to know how many of the people on the jury have illegally copied music to cassette in the past? How many of them have given an illegal copy of an album to a friend or family? How many of them have illegally made up a mixtape for that special someone in their lives? How many of these jurors, who are aware of peer-to-peer, use it? How many of them copied the contents of their mp3 players from a cd in direct violation of the laws the RIAA love to enforce? How many of them would be happy to hear that the RIAA would love to place DRM on music that would mean they aren't allowed to play it on that mp3 player even though they legally bought it? Oh they didn't ask proper questions? Why am I not surprised?

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