Ernie Miller responds to my post about the cost of RIAA risk. I think he’s mostly right, arguing that some legal enforcement of copyrights against P2P users is necessary to prevent a drastic shift in copynorms and destroy P2P networks from the inside out by causing users to download and never upload.
I agree that my numbers may be off. I don’t know how many uploaders there are, and I haven’t assumed a decline in the uploader population as the pool shrinks and the risk increases. But the 2.95 million figure I use for the total P2P population may be conservative enough to correct for these, since there are a lot more than 2.95 million copies of the client software out there.
My argument was not that any sue-the-consumer, scorched-earth litigation strategy was doomed to fail in a world of rational P2P users, only that this one may be doing more harm than good to the RIAA. The real potential weakness in my argument, I think, is that it leads to the conclusion that the RIAA should probably be even more obnoxious. For example, if they sued 10,000 people a month, the monthly cost would increase to $10.17 — more than a Rhapsody subscription. Or, in the unlikely event they were able to extract even one full $150,000 statutory damage amount from each of their 532 defendants each month, the monthly cost of risk would increase to $27.05 — that’s plenty of new tracks from iTunes each month.
Of course, “assume a rational consumer” is a statement sure to get chuckles from all but the most hard-core Chicago School adherents. People aren’t rational, and the RIAA’s strategy maybe working for that reason. People (me included) always overestimate risks, and rarely do much math before they decide whether to undertake one course of action or another. But, at least with the current litigation strategy, few consumers have any reason to be worried.
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