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Run Over by the RIAA Don...t Tap the Glass

By Cassi Hunt

Either since the day I visited my first aquarium or the day Goldie came into my family’s life, our parents have told us not to tap the glass of the fish tank. It’s cruel to Goldie — I understand and respect that. I mean, heck, I am a vegetarian. But would we have many qualms over a little water perturbation if Goldie were, say, a bloodthirsty shark? I’d knock on that glass to the near-cracking point. And in that spirit, I decided to call up my new friend at the RIAA negotiation hotline again. (Hereafter I’ll refer to her as Bowie, which means “yellow haired,” as I’m pretty sure that’s the case.)

Last time I spoke with Bowie, the conversation was pretty much over after she named $3750 as the settlement amount. (I haven’t actually agreed to settle yet.) So when I called her again, I asked — again — about how to negotiate that amount. I counted on the fact that self-important types wouldn’t be inclined to remember a lowly pirate like me. Bowie didn’t disappoint. She launched into her spiel about how the RIAA doesn’t negotiate settlements. I told her that it was too much to ask for thousands of dollars from a college student who only makes just enough from term and summer employment to still come out a couple thousand in debt.

Bowie replied that the RIAA was oh-so-kind enough to offer a six month repayment plan. At this point, I was beginning to speculate on Bowie’s hair color, and decided to switch tactics. I concisely and calmly explained how the situation was ridiculous: they weren’t offering a settlement, they were issuing an ultimatum! Let us screw you over gently now, or with chains and whips in court. Surely there must be some flexibility for individual cases.

Well, she replied, they do make allowances if something like a medical emergency comes up. Now we’re getting somewhere. “And who would I talk to about a situation like that, because I’d like to talk to them now.”

“Me,” she replied. Ever feel like your nose has just been flattened by something large and solid? I mean, besides the doors at 77 Mass. Ave. “But you’re not in a situation like that.”

Oh, but I am. The Institvte has left me with severe bouts of p-set-induced insomnia and a case of stuck-to-desk-itis that recurs two to three times in a semester, then again just before break. And my wallet certainly takes a hit for it.

But as much as I tried to argue that I was in as unique a situation as someone with medical expenses, there was no getting through. Bowie even had the audacity to say, “In fact, the RIAA has been known to suggest that students drop out of college or go to community college in order to be able to afford settlements.”

Are. You. Shitting. Me.

There you have it, fellow Techsters: proof of the fantastic levels of absurdity to which the RIAA attack has sunk. The Recording Industry of America would rather see America’s youth deprived of higher education, forever marring their ability to contribute personally and financially to society — including the arts — so that they may crucify us as examples to our peers. To say nothing of wrecking our lives in the process. I finally understand what the RIAA meant when they told me “stealing music is not a victimless crime” — the victims hang for all to see.

Please, RIAA — if any competent representative happens to enjoy flipping through The Tech — please tell me Bowie is a moronic tool who can’t help what the Superior Gray Coverage Golden Blonde hair dye does to her mental facilities. Please tell me you actually care about the futures of the age demographic that buys most of your music (http://www.riaa.com/news/marketingdata/pdf/2004consumerprofile.pdf). Your evil pirates are people too, people who enjoy music and almost always still purchase it legitimately. Each has an individual life and circumstances that deserve consideration, if not for the sake of empathy for your fellow man, then for the sake of business sense.

Sure, if you commit a crime against someone, you should be held accountable. But I find it horrifying that anyone would single-mindedly and without compassion process people like a meat grinder set to pur e. So while the RIAA continues to play the part of shark, I’ll continue to stand behind the glass, tapping away, wondering which of us is on display.