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LAMP, RIAA, and Other Acronyms

Ruth Miller

What is it about college kids that scares people? I’m tired of being watched carefully when I enter a retail store with my friends. Why, when on an advising seminar trip to the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum, did a security guard stop and ask me if my entire group was with MIT, and then report this over his headset. What sort of reputation have we earned to necessitate the alert of art museum guards?

I ask this in response to a statement released by the Universal Music Group, a recording label, on the subject of the recent shutdown of the Library Access to Music system over copyright disputes. The gist of the situation is that two innovative MIT students created a server to legally play music over the campus cable system. Flags weren’t raised until the MIT students launched the service with much fanfare. Apparently, Loudeye didn’t have licenses for the tracks. MIT pulled the plug on the L.A.M.P. service until the issue could be resolved.

I’m no law student, but it appears the blame should be put on the people that sold the unlicensed products, the Loudeye Corporation. But whom does the Universal Music Group criticize for the situation? In a press release dated Oct. 24, UMG stated: “It is unfortunate that MIT launched a service in an attempt to avoid paying recording artists, union musicians, and record labels.” Because I do not claim to be a law student, I do not feel restricted to legal terminology as I say, “Excuse me?”

It looks to me like the man is sticking it to a bunch of college kids again. Doesn’t he ever get tired of picking on us? I’ve got a piece of advice for the UMG, the RIAA, and whoever else decided to start throwing around legal suits. We’re broke college kids. Yeah, our school is rather expensive, but thanks to military-funded research and a little thing I like to call “massive amounts of financial aid,” the children of public school teachers can attend this rather expensive school. What the creators of L.A.M.P. were trying to do was create a compromise between the people with the music, the people with the money, and the little people. The RIAA has yet to recognize these as three distinct groups.

At a leadership camp I attended a few years ago, they drilled into our heads not to criticize any idea unless we had another solution ready. That’s exactly what the creators of L.A.M.P. have done. While the RIAA, Napster, and other groups across the country have been suing and getting sued over the digital music revolution, L.A.M.P. is a compromise. The beauty of L.A.M.P. is that it isn’t sharing digital music. The music is shared over cable television so music files can’t be downloaded. This system functions just like the radio: the artists (or their labels) get money and the students get music thanks to an intermediary with a checkbook, in this case MIT.

But no. What do the recording labels do? They criticize MIT for breaking asinine rules out of the analog age and aggravate their customers even more. L.A.M.P. may not have been perfect, but it was a huge step in the right direction; a direction that few have ventured until now. When blank cassettes came out, the RIAA freaked out because they were afraid that consumers would just tape songs off the radio. Yeah, I remember taping U2’s “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” taped from the radio in the fifth grade, but I also bought the CD with my allowance later that year. Because the format is analog, the product cannot be as cleanly reproduced and is never as good as the retail album. Now the radio is the least of the recording industries problems because they see it as an advantageous marketing tool.

The recording industry just had to sit back and let MIT do the work as L.A.M.P. was born. After the press lauded the initiative of its creators, the UMG refused to recognize the innovation of L.A.M.P., instead choosing to wrongly place the licensing blame on MIT. Wake up and smell the revolution.