by Luke Baumgarten & r & & r & More DJ Drama & r & & r &

& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & he RIAA is doing such a good job making itself the bad guy, it's making all the RIAA-watchdog blogs totally redundant. Pre-millennium, as soon as revenues sank, major record labels started looking for a culprit. They found file sharing. They also started reevaluating alternate revenue sources. They rediscovered sampling.

The hippity-hop thing was a platinum mine. Upon closer inspection, though, they found thieves amongst the samplers too. Never mind that sales numbers of underground albums using bitten beats paled next to the mammoth numbers put up by major label producers; the RIAA wanted that pittance.

So not only did they start prosecuting kids who just wanted to hear the Gourdes cover "Gin and Juice," they issued cease and desist orders to the likes of Danger Mouse, right when he was blowing minds with The Grey Album. "It's all stealing," cawed the RIAA, conflating illegal sampling with file sharing, "and stealing is evil." People listened, just not in the way the RIAA hoped. The Grey Album was art, and the RIAA called it theft, so the burgeoning Internet masses (all of us), started viewing file sharing as a form of arts patronage. P2P kept The Grey Album alive long enough for Danger Mouse to become huge, collaborating on Gorillaz, Gnarls Barkley, DangerDoom and other ridiculously lucrative ventures. People who stole The Grey Album bought St. Elsewhere. If the RIAA understood the taste-making upside of P2P, the windfall would have been even greater.

More important, with tolerance would come the mantle of liberators, freeing art. Instead, they treat DJs and P2Pers like criminals, hamper free expression, and backstab those they profit off (DJs Drama and Cannon most recently). Thus, the RIAA turns samplers into folk heroes, giving kids with BitTorrent entr & eacute;e into the cause and an enemy to fight. "The RIAA smothers art," comes the collective refrain, "we keep it burning."

Sam Jackson: Anti-Government Extremist Groups @ Foley Speakers Room

Wed., Feb. 8, 12-1 p.m.
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About The Author

Luke Baumgarten

Luke Baumgarten is commentary contributor and former culture editor of the Inlander. He is a creative strategist at Seven2 and co-founder of Terrain.