Recording Industry Association of America

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RIAA Logo.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is a trade group representing the U.S. recording industry.



The RIAA was formed in 1952. Its primary purpose at that time was to administer the RIAA equalization curve. This is a technical standard of frequency response applied to vinyl records during manufacturing and playback. The RIAA has continued to participate in creating and administering technical standards for later systems of music recording and reproduction, including magnetic tape, cassette tapes, digital audio tapes, CDs, and software-based digital technologies.

The RIAA also participates in the collection, administration and distribution of music licenses and royalties.

It is the body responsible for certifying gold and platinum albums and singles in the USA. For more information about sales data see list of best selling albums and list of best selling singles.

File-sharing controversy

The RIAA has been at the heart of the file-sharing controversy, especially MP3 formatted music files uploaded onto the Internet using peer-to-peer based software. The RIAA has long contended that unregulated swapping of copyrighted music is a form of piracy, applying the well-known computing term to music. Hilary Rosen, the RIAA's president and chief executive officer from 1988 to 2003, was an outspoken critic of peer to peer file sharing, and under her direction, the RIAA waged an aggressive legal campaign to halt the practice. More recent RIAA presidents have also continued the RIAA's stance toward peer to peer file sharing. The RIAA and its member groups argue that Internet distribution of music not only detrimentally affects the profits of their members, but the careers of current and future artists as well, due to possible stagnation of the music industry from lack of profitability.

Opponents of the RIAA claim that the trade group is, in effect, a cartel which artificially inflates and fixes prices for CDs. Such allegations note that the Big Four (EMI, Sony-BMG, Universal Music, and Warner) distribute at least 95 percent of all music CDs sold worldwide, and that the share of the price of an individual CD actually received by the artist is extremely low compared to the share retained by the record company as profit. In 2003, the major CD issuers in the American market, including the "Big Four" settled a price-fixing case brought by 43 state Attorneys General by issuing refunds to consumers and donating CDs to libraries and educational groups. [1] (

Many well known and successful artists openly oppose the RIAA's policy of suing file-traders, encourage their fans to share their music online, and forbid the RIAA from suing persons distributing their music online.

To date, the RIAA has sued approximately 10,000 people in the United States suspected of sharing copyrighted works.[2] ( The Electronic Frontier Foundation claims that approximately 60 million Americans use file-sharing programs.[3] ( If these statistics are accurate, and the RIAA chooses whom to sue randomly, any individual file-swapper has approximately a 1 in 6000 chance of being sued. By way of comparison, an American is twice as likely to be struck by lightning, with a 1 in 3000 lifetime chance.[4] (

The RIAA's legal campaign experienced a severe setback in December of 2003, when a federal appeals court overturned a lower court order requiring Verizon to disclose the identities of file-sharing customers based on a simple one-page subpoena. The RIAA claims this procedure was sanctioned by the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, but the appeals court ruled that the DMCA regulation applies only to data actually hosted by an Internet service provider, rather than data on a customer's computer. The United States Supreme Court let this ruling stand in 2004. As a result, the RIAA must now file individual civil suits against each accused file-sharer, and the ISP and alleged file sharer have many more legal avenues for preventing disclosure of their identity, making the entire process much more expensive, slow, and complicated for the RIAA.[5] (

Recent suits in 2005 have been focused on University and college-aged students, with the purpose stated by the RIAA to deter and discourage unethical habits by youth on the verge of entering the world community. Student access to 24-hour high speed computer networks is common at American universities, providing students with ample bandwidth for file-trading.

Critics of the RIAA claim that it has done little to garner positive goodwill from consumers by suing people for trading music, and that their goals are to retain the status quo, erode the concept of fair use, and prevent the cost benefits of much cheaper modern digital recording and distribution techniques from reaching consumers — in essence, to prevent a new disruptive technology from forcing the fundamental alteration of the recording industry's business model.

Work (Made) For Hire controversy

In 1999, Mitchell Glazier, a Congressional staff attorney, inserted, without public notice or comment, substantive language into the final markup of a "technical corrections" section of copyright legislation, classifying many music recordings as "works made for hire," thereby stripping artists of their copyright interests and transferring those interests to their record labels. Shortly afterwards, Glazier was hired as Senior Vice President of Government Relations and Legislative Counsel the RIAA, which vigorously defended the change when it came to light. The battle over the disputed provision led to the formation of the Recording Artists' Coalition, which successfully lobbied for repeal of the change.

External links

fr:Recording Industry Association of America it:RIAA pl:RIAA pt:Recording Industry Association of America


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