IT’S WAR AGAIN: PCMag Flips RIAA the Bird

Just when it seemed music companies and Silicone Valley had found common ground, PCMag throws the drama back into 2005 hostilities.

Moses Avalon

If you ever had any doubt that the ISP industry is at war with music and other content providers, this should put the controversy to rest.  When a popular consumer computer magazine acutely and brazenly facilitates their readers to steal music via P2P, even after all the court battles, how can there be any room for doubt that this is anything short of a deliberate attack.

Even with ruling after ruling that clearly states that file-sharing is a crime, even after every single legal argument has been made and defeated as to how file-sharing commercial music might, in some extreme interpretation, be legal, some people just don’t get it, or just don’t care.

For those catching up, PCMag published an article that is essentially a support manual for the post LimeWire world of P2P users.  Those who want to continue to fool themselves that “sharing” song files is not copyright infringement or theft can read this piece to get a complete list of bootleg LimeWires who will help them remain criminals.  The RIAA sent an uncharacteristically polite plea for balanced reporting and a retraction. It was cosigned by every trade group in the music space.  PCMag’s editors responded to the RIAA with basically, “go flog yourself.”

Federal Prosecutors, wake up.  You now have a main stream magazine actually instructing the public how to commit a crime, and every single advertiser in that magazine is a beneficiary of that facilitation. If that does not meet the legal standard for a criminal enterprise, then tell me what does?

Wake up RIAA, SX, etc, your letter was a great start, but it’s time to reboot the lawsuits.  And hey, ASCAP/BMI/SESAC you’re a bunch of pussies if you let the RIAA do all the heavy lifting and take all the black eyes– again.  These are your publishers and writers that are being ripped off just as much as the RIAA’s labels and artists. You collectively take in about $2 Billion each and every year.  Yet, you haven’t spent dime one on shutting down illegal P2P.  How about you do something besides writing erudite support letters?

PC Magazine, I hereby accuse you.  Given how much carbon has been devoted to this issue in the past decade and given how much everybody knows this has hurt the art-form of popular music, I accuse you of “intentional infliction of emotional harm” to every recording artist, music label and music publisher in the free world.

Will some class action lawyer please read this and sue these a–holes for more money than they can earn in two lifetimes?  Please?  Can we get this done already?  Enough is enough.

We need to end the coffee-house intellectualism and realize that all these concessions, like the three strikes/gradual response program are just  BS ISP lip service.  How can I prove it?

Well, if the ISPs really felt that PCMag overstepped, damaging the “good will” ISPs have been working towards , they would protest by pulling their advertising, which so far they have not.  Why? Because they LOVE this shit.  It wasn’t even a day after the RIAA sent their request that every Silicon Valley trade rag from Tech Dirt to Slahdot piled on the we-hate-the RIAA-even when-they-are-right syrup.  With only one exception. (I want to personally thank Stephen Chapman of ZDNet for his truly balanced response to PCMag. Hopefully he won’t get flamed for being honest.)

Enough talk.  It’s time to get radical.  Who is in?

Let’s start by sending the PCMag writer, Chloe Albanesius an email helping her to understand the devastation that articles like hers do to real people.  You can find out more about how to get in touch with her here.  And it’s worth noting that this gal is a good journalist who is not new to her profession or this particular issue. Clearly she needs to hear firsthand how serious this situation is. Maybe it will inspire a follow up.

Mo out.

22 responses to “IT’S WAR AGAIN: PCMag Flips RIAA the Bird”

  1. Ira Abrams, Esq. says:


    You’re 100% right on the law. Your “radical” solution, however, isn’t radical enough. As a practical matter, copyright enforcement to prevent so-called digital “file-sharing” is dead in the water. There’s only one way I see to pay rights holders the money they’re due: Congress must impose a surcharge (call it an “entertainment tax” if you will–I don’t much care) at the gateway–an add-on to ISP and telecom access charges, payable by everyone who uses Internet and telecom service, regardless of whether they use their personal computer or hand-held device to download music, movies, or books.
    A PRO-type agency, completely neutral, should then pay rights holders as their interests appear. Granted, the payout is where the “devil is in the details” and we’ll need to think long and hard about structuring a fair allocation system. But I’m persuaded that it can be done. Hell, despite some obvious problems the PRO’s have in paying the correct parties, they are light years ahead of the record, movie and book publishing industries in devising systems that actually work.
    The trade-off for the public is that everything ever recorded, filmed and written will be available on demand (untethered downoads included) in exchange for the payment of the surcharge, which, when pooled will amount to billions of dollars. To accomplish this lofty goal, Title 17 of the U.S. Code will have to be substantially amended (probably streamlined).
    The indisputable evidence is that ad-based, subscription-based and other such systems simply haven’t been profitable. Moreover, the ratio of illegal downloads to legally purchased downloads of recorded music is 20:1, according to all the anecdotal evidence. We’re talking about laws that get about as much respect as the laws against consumption of alcoholic beverages received during Prohibition in the 1920’s. It’s an un-winnable war–unless we rethink our whole approach from the ground up. You want “radical”? There it is.
    I want you to know how much I appreciate all you do to keep the entertainment industries relatively “honest”. Kudos!



    Ira Abrams, Esq.
    1839 South Ocean Blvd., #2-B
    Delray Beach, Florida 33483-6583

  2. Mitch Davis says:

    Moses, your article was well timed, just yesterday i sent this to the editor, article author and the head of Ziff Davis (parent co of PC MAG)

    Dear PC Mag,

    I know it has recently made public news that PC Mag received a letter from the RIAA and more regarding your recent article on P2P alternatives.

    Magazines like PC Mag and other websites like Ars Technica (owned by Conde Nast) often help to foster online piracy are a part of the problem of piracy. Companies like yours don’t often seem to care about the hurt it is placing on many people. I have been a longtime reader of PC Mag both on paper and online. The biggest problem to me as a music person working often with tech companies… is that most tech people have zero sympathy towards people in music, movies and more.

    Piracy is something most technology people have looked at with more than a blind eye, many people in your world have an agenda to destroy copyrights. I know it is covered under the guise of speaking to their readers, speaking on topics of “interest” to them. But this is largely a big double standard, to help and foster creative piracy. This is not even turning a blind eye, but to help and tell people how to pirate, also to literally support anti-copyright policies often by legitimizing the thought process used by many people to “validate” their theft. Sorry, but this is a big part of the problem. Artists, filmmakers and more need their rights protected… not for people to be stealing more. It doesn’t help that magazines like yours to be helping give people ways to steal.

    Would PC Mag come up extra ways for their readers to do software piracy of their advertisers? To promote ways to steal computers? No, you wouldn’t. Software piracy has become less and less an issue as tech companies build in better anti-piracy and make it harder for gamers to play online without individual game serial #’s that aren’t hacked. The music and movie world do not have this luxury. The computer world and tech magazines included, have lobbied against DRM. In the case of music, there is no protection left. Not because DRM didn’t work, but because it was stigmatized heavily in tech media and by companies like Apple.

    Songwriters, artists, labels and more deserve to get paid for their hard work, same goes for movies, comics and other realms. For tech people to simply say the business model of creating art or entertainment is broken, Artists are getting “stolen” from and more is crazy, wrong and just a stupid justication for stealing, breaking laws and hurting the people.

    It pains me to say that your magazine and philosophy are a part of the problem. Maybe a big part of the solution could be for PC Magazine to be aware of what it is actually doing with more than a asterix (dont steal copyrighted content) wink, wink. That you say you are merely reporting on something isn’t actually true. By saying you polled your staff, that means that many of your staff use these file sharing networks and these are their favorites to use. aka… where your staff likes steal content from.

    Proposed legislation for website blocking on the domain level and finding new ways of blocking p2p networks is sounding very appealing right around now. Very real people are getting hurt by IP theft. I wish there was a more human face to the harm that is happening, instead of the lawsuits, people getting informed of the hurt they are doing. In todays world, i don’t know if that would help. But laws that would enact teeth to fight these websites is needed. No one can expect tech people to do the right thing anymore. It really is as if none of you have the same morals.

    People have gotten hurt by piracy, years later many of us in the creative world are just trying to make a go of things and artists, songwriters need some support and protections for their work. The old music world is dead, it is changing. To be honest, it would be terrific if now actually people started to understand piracy hurts people. It hurts real people and artists and everyone else in the creative world deserve their fair shot at earning a living.

    Mitchell Davis

  3. Anonymous says:

    Certainly for the music industry, PCMag’s actions are the equivalent of posting public information on how to build a bomb, then saying they’re free of any fault. They could just as easily report about value services where the recording industry and consumers all win. In typical media fashion, they just want to create controversy at someone else’s expense.

  4. Don Coyer says:

    Moses….here is my instant response to your article, that I sent to Chloe Albanesius-

    Dear Ms. Albanesius-

    I have spent a lot of money buying PC Mag over the years. I still have giant stacks of them. Never once did I steal it. Or “borrow” it for “research” purposes. Nor did I tell people that if they block the camera in the store, they could get away with “borrowing” it. Or any other sneaky “go ahead” instructions as to how to keep stealing the magazine.

    If I sneak onto your lawn when you aren’t looking and “borrow” your lawn flamingos, even if I give them to someone else and I make no money from it, it’s STEALING. I’m sure you are a good journalist and were just doing your job. However, it could be interpreted as criminal activity to incite a crime of theft, as surely as incitement to violence, rape, destruction of property, or any other crime that deprives people of things that belong to them.

    Here’s what’s going to happen. Music professionals are going to end up out of work, and people like myself who have devoted their whole lives to trying to make good music and learn all there is to learn, and sacrificed a normal life in all ways, will have to give up. These people aren’t just stealing music or livelihoods, they are stealing dreams. And what will also happen is that people all over the world will be lamenting the days when music was great, instead of being a constant barrage of half-baked, sonically terrible sounding amateurish trash that will be all that’s available. (For free download, HEY!) When professionals can’t make a living, people with no talent or dedication take over.

    I think maybe I should encourage people to scan PC Mag and post it online, and see how they like that. And if you don’t understand or care about these points, maybe I will ask musicians all over the world to start submitting free computer articles to the mags and see how you like it when you end up with no work. And no pay. After that, maybe we can get amateurs to work at the pharmaceuticals and at NASA for free and let’s see how that ends up as well.

    I hope you take these words to heart and understand that this issue is not as harmless as it seems. This is ending several industries, from musical instrument manufacturers, to retail outlets, people who create music (and probably eventually some schools) recording studios, record companies, large and small, professional musicians and indie musicians. And more.

    You can claim it’s your job to report, but everyone is responsible for their actions at some point. Please think about it.

    Sincerely, Don Coyer

  5. Don Coyer says:

    I’d also like to point out that, since lawyers and judges and courts depend so heavily on PRECEDENT, maybe someone should remind everyone of this fact. (and get lawyers interested by pointing it out)

    If someone comes up to you in a bar and says, “Hey man, do you know where I can get some (name illegal drug)”? And you say, “Nah, I don’t do drugs, but if you ask Howard over there, maybe he knows someone.” Guess what. You are now guilty of conspiracy and you can go to prison for pointing the guy to whoever has the drugs.

    How is this ANY DIFFERENT than pointing people in the direction of illegal downloads?

    Here’s another point, unrelated. Musicians, ever since the advent of recorded music, have been leaders of culture. If some government got out of hand, blam, there were protest songs, etc. Music stirs people to action. Now, if it all collapses, who is going to lead culture then? Governments? The military? It’s something everyone should think about. And when you think about it, picture goose stepping enforcers.


  6. Hey there, Moses,

    A reader of yours sent me an email today letting me know that you mentioned my article. To be honest, I hadn’t heard of you prior to today, but I’ve done enough digging around prior to posting this that I feel humbled by your mention of my article. =)

    It’s nice to see a similar opinion as mine since all the people who have really taken the time to respond to me (mostly via email) are people who are miffed that I went gunning for PCMag, think I don’t understand the value of P2P as a technology, or somehow don’t get the whole “try before you buy” logical fallacy they love so much.

    What it basically boils down to is the vocal few who are so up in arms over people like you and I who admonish the implementation of public P2P networks vs. the silent majority who actually use P2P on a daily basis for downloading illegal content. The amount of damage to the bottom line of the music industry, movie industry, gaming industry, application industry, et al is really a moot point when it comes to the philosophy of P2P, because people have it built up in their heads that they’re entitled to trying anything and everything they want before buying (and that’s even *if* they buy) and that is a logical fallacy since there are plenty of non-P2P avenues that intellectual property owners give for people to try or sample their product(s) prior to making a purchasing decision.

    Anyway, sorry for babbling on but I’m really just tired of the excuses and logical fallacies that allow most people to convince themselves that the way they use P2P applications is okay. I don’t think my senior editor was too excited that I made the executive decision to post that article of mine on a whim (since its topic really has nothing to do with my regular blog format and was an opinion in stark contrast to seemingly most of the tech industry), but the light you shined upon it in the manner you did in your article made it totally worth it. =)

    Thanks again, Moses.


  7. Moses,

    Why didn’t you blast the RIAA? They give the same information on their website, and in their congressional filings.

    Oh, and you are incorrect. Not all courts have ruled this way, the rulings vary by country. In England and Spain for example court cases have gone the other way.

    Finally, the GAO disagrees with the ‘everybody knows downloading is damaging the industry’. They state flatly that they don’t know. No one knows. There has not been a proper third party peer reviewed study conducted to date.

    So your assertion that this is damaging is unproven. You may believe that this is true, but you cannot prove it. Legislating without evidence is a futile endeavor. You might do the right thing, but you have no way to know if you did.

    Evidence based legislation is what we need, you have to wonder why no one wants to consider it.


  8. Jeff says:

    Funny how tech headlines frame news to their demographic’s liking.

    Sample Headline:

    Court Reduces Prison Sentence for Pirate Bay Founders

    [Though the fines were nearly doubled to $6,500,000, and the one-year sentences reduced.]

    | Posted on 26 November 2010. Categorized | News, Web and Software:

    Popular media sharing site Pirate Bay’ executives have received yet another “guilty” decree…the appeal court has reduced their prison sentence … The four co-founders of the site were originally sentenced to one year in jail…

    They were also slapped with $3.6 million in fine. Three of its co-founders Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij and Carl Lundstrom will now serve a prison term of eight months, ten months and four months respectively. The case of fourth co-founder Gottfrid Svartholm will be reviewed later.

    The court has increased their fine to $6.5 million [from $3,600,000] as it decided that the losses due to the site’s activities were higher than judged by the district court…

    …suit against Limewire was instituted in 2006 and the company founder Mark Gorton was held personally liable for the damages.

  9. Jay Warsinske says:

    I wrote to the author, the publisher & advertising director DEMANDING the firing of the writer as contributor to ILLEGAL ACTIVITY and think we need to contact ALL advertisers and demand they pull all advertising with ZIFF DAVIS or publicly be KNOWN that they contribute to ILLEGAL ACTIVITY and need the public to know this!
    There needs to be CONSEQUENCES for people who brashly contribute to taking the livlihood of others!
    The idea of a ‘tax’ to ISPs will NEVER trickle down to the creators of the work, ONLY the ‘major labels & studios’!
    Jay Warsinske

  10. dedfraggle says:

    Well, maybe it is a bad idea but we are thinking of releasing our work under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike licence… so we’ll see how that goes for us. In this scenario file-sharing P2P would be legally acceptable. We’re not trying to hurt other artists or anything. Just hoping to get payed mainly from live performances. Is this a completely naive idea? Maybe. We are hoping to be middle-class working Americans. As musicians we see that work as being live performances.

    I agree that stealing is stealing, but in our situation it is simply sharing is sharing. The more the merrier.

  11. Kevin says:

    Mo I agree with you, but the music industry not the musicians need to for once in their lives get off their lazy asses and make people want to buy the music. All the major record labels should be embarrassed. If I were running Capitol Records or any of the other main labels for example I would have enough pride to take my own life. These morons have had it too easy for too long. They need to make consumers want to buy the actual CD and stop crying about music piracy. For God Sakes they need to grow a pair. Music Piracy has been going on for at least the past 30 years or so. The internet just makes it easier. They should stop fighting losing battle and start trying to benefit from it. Give consumers a reason to buy the CD for the CD and the sleeve not just the music on the CD. IT’S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE UNLESS YOUR SOME “POT HEAD” RUNNING A MAJOR LABEL.

  12. Moses,

    Apparently there was some confusion, the letter complained about Limewire Pirate Edition, which PCMag didn’t write about.

    And as to your comments that the courts always rule against the ‘pirates’, here’s an article over at The 1709 Blog mentioning two cases where the court ruled for the ‘pirates’.


    Check out Tom Smith’s site. Tom is doing what you are doing, and enjoying some success. FYI, I first saw Tom in concert over twenty years ago, and he’s really good.


  13. Keith Thomas says:

    Moses, Here’s my email response to PC Magazine:

    Chloe, Your article directing traffic to alternative piracy sites is unconscionable if not CRIMINAL! If we do our job, we will soon be able to see the headline read, “PC Magazine Is Dead: What Are the Alternatives?

    Keith Thomas

  14. Maybe the RIAA should give away free “copies” of the software programs of the advertisers in PC Mag on their site…I wonder how PC’s advertisers would feel? Funny how in the computer workd there is such a double standard?

  15. Chris Rich says:

    One funny thing I encounter is how difficult it is to report piracy to most of the majors. So far, only UMG is ahead of the curve with an actual reporting e mail in their site and a dedicated piracy dept overseen at the SVP level.

    There are any number of honest people and fans who might report theft more frequently if there was a way. I just tried to send Sony an overview this morning and their page field is full of errors.

    EMI is comparably pathetic although I found a pathway via a producer.

    If you look at the major label sites, you come away with a sense they really don’t want the grubby public bothering them. Smaller sites and labels are generally more easy to contact.

    The opening of a phase of Justice Department raids yesterday has a number of colleagues buzzing.

  16. Dalton Priddy says:

    Here is a great article on a recent DHS shutdown on illegal sites that sell bootleg products and offer free mp3 downloads.

    It will take time to clean up this mess, and with people like Moses exposing the insanity of copyright holders have a true friend here.

    Happy Holidays to all.

  17. Jimi says:

    …”every single advertiser…”
    Pow! exactly what it’s all about.
    A recent article shared across several magazines & newsgroups showed Carrie Underwood makes more in sponsorships & promotional appearances than she does with sales of music.
    Pulp mags like LA Weekly are a good model. The mag is free, revenues are sponsor generated. Songwriters who have revenue-sharing deals with the artists that do their songs (much like licensing) will be the ones making a living, as will artists, even if the music cloud becomes out of control
    No, I do NOT believe music should be free, rather. those who benefit from it most, generating related revenue, should be paying for it, not the end-listener who’s top 40 choices change every second.

  18. Unfortunately, there’s really no new technology over the last 40 years that media companies haven’t thought is infringing and would like to foreclose. If they had their way there would be NO:

    – Remote controls
    – No fast forward or 30 sec skip
    – No VCRs
    – No DVRs
    – No MP3 players
    – No search engines
    – No hosting sites (like Youtube)
    – No personal cloud storage (like MP3tunes)

    Because they have alleged that all of those products are copyright infringements.

    Perhaps if the media companies were a bit more discerning people might give their views more credence.

    — MR

  19. ES says:

    So…ummm…with all due respect…why are people still bitching about this?

    For Chrissakes. It’s been ten years since Napster. If the RIAA and their assorted cronies are still wringing their dollar bills and whining about the nature of the industry landscape (and this goes for you, too, Moses) then boo-hoo-hoo. Go get a friggin’ job in something more predictable. Like road construction. Or become a dental hygienist.

    It’s 2011!! Stop sounding like a bunch of greedy weasels who can’t make their limo payments for the month. Maybe people will go back to paying $19.00 for a friggin’ CD when the friggin’ CD doesn’t suck ass, first track to last. Nah–the horse isn’t just out of the barn, it’s long since trotted through the forest and escaped to the other side of the continent.

    Whether you like it or not, as long as a waveform can be converted into a binary file, file sharing is here to stay. SO SOLVE THE PROBLEM!! Stop suing grandmothers or blaming geek magazines!! Try this: be half as creative as the artists that you dream you really were. As much as I don’t care for his auto-tuned music, you have to give the people behind Justin Bieber credit. They didn’t just complain about the ‘biz. They got creative. Simon Cowell got creative.


  20. Don Coyer says:

    Probably the major problem the music industry faces, the root of the problem behind all the piracy, etc., is the shift in attitude of the “buying” public. It’s entitlement. The rot really set in during the 90s, even before computers took off. The best example I can give of this attitude is karaoke. In some ways, it probably started the avalanche.

    In early 1993, I had never heard of karaoke, and within 2 years it had changed everything for the worst. Within that time, people began to feel entitled, and you almost had to kick them in the face to keep them from charging up onstage and grabbing the mic. It’s not about talent, skill, dedication or sacrifice anymore, it’s about ME ME ME….NOW NOW NOW.

    We see the same thing all across the entertainment industry. People are playing these rock band type of games instead of learning to play instruments. They want to do it themselves now. (the fact that they really aren’t “doing it” at all doesn’t occur to them.

    If you don’t believe what I’m saying about this shift, consider the fact that the video gaming industry has totally blown away both the music and movie industry when it comes to profit. People want hands on. It’s not enough to sit back and watch now, they want to participate, even if they suck. We’re almost back to singing around the campfire mentality, and we’re making about the same money that generates.

    Rap is done for the most part by people who don’t play at all, but either have someone make a “beat” for them, or just steal a groove off of someone else’s record. It’s just more of the same mentality I’m talking about.

    So, while all of these other problems (piracy, etc) are real problems and need to be dealt with, we are undergoing a huge devaluation of TALENT and SKILL. I believe this is the underlying cause of the rest of the problems, people’s perceptions have undergone a dramatic change for the worse, and we need to think about what can be done to fight that. Probably, taking music programs out of the schools is one of the underlying causes of this.


  21. Louella says:

    Goodluck trying to get rid of p2p.. Even without limewire and the like, people can share files using other sites/apps. Besides is it really limewires fault if people use their program for illegal use? Hypothetically that would be like trying to close down a private airline company who boards passengers that illegally drug smuggle from country to country. Just imagine how many people get away with that, yet rarely would you blame the airline. I reckon they should just get rid of crap music so that people would want to buy their albums. No more filler songs please… Lol

  22. Bond says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if one day someone with a assault rifle goes into the RIAA and gives it back to them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.