(Downhill Battle) The RIAAA got a Christmas present last week: on Tuesday the Department of Justice stopped an investigation into anti-competitive practices by the major labels (specifically, favoring label-affiliated online music services over others when it came to licensing music). Slashdot has a good thread on it here.
It’s clear that the decision to end the investigation isn’t the result of some conspiracy, or corruption in the halls of justice; it’s just that by the time the DOJ investigation really got rolling, the “pay-for-downloads” market had changed so radically that the whole thing had ceased to make sense.
Of course the monstrous oligopoly still exists: 5 companies control 85% of the market and, with very few exceptions, nobody else can get their music on the radio. But the corporations move fast and the monopoly-cops move slow. By the time the DOJ arrives on the scene, the damage has already been done and the real problem is someplace else.
Payola was made illegal, so the majors now do it through independent promoters. They got busted for price fixing, paid a fine (the fine was big but less than they made from elevated prices) and, still, price fixing continued. But where the DOJ will always fail, the public is succeeding. Every kid on Kazaa is a trust-buster, every time someone burns a major label CD for a friend, they help bring more competition, fairness, and artistic freedom to the music business. And whether or not you personally support filesharing or CD burning, it’s never been more clear that paying for major label music is unethical. We can all help fight the monopoly by closing our wallets to the major labels and opening them to independent music.