Somebody Noticed the Elephant


USA Today (via Yahoo) published an article today that addresses the number one reason why podcasts will never be (or, more accurately, allowed to become) a mainstram thing. It’s about time someone noticed that elephant in the room (the priority-challenged RIAA). If podcasting is ever going to attract the masses, it must contain interesting, legal content, that you can’t easily get somewhere else. For that to happen, the elephant must be dealt with. Otherwise, podcasting will devolve into three catagories:

1) Watered down, low bitrate marketing ploys from the record label cartel;

2) Rebel podcasts that try to stay one step ahead of the RIAA lawyers (like the file sharing services do now); and

3) A lot of mostly boring talk with a few public domain songs thrown in to give it an NPR vibe.

None of those are likely to bring podcasting to the masses.

So until the elephant is dealt with, podcasting is hobbled almost to the point of uselessness. Yes, yes, I know there are some good podcasts out there, but that’s only because they ignore the elephant and use unlicensed music, but that will soon end, if you read between the lines of this quote from the article:

“Record companies say they’re just trying to look out for their artists. Podcasting could exacerbate the piracy problem created by file-swapping sites such as Grokster and Kazaa. When listeners download a podcast, they “are getting a copy of an entire program … an unprotected copy that they can do whatever they want with,” says Steve Marks, a lawyer at the Recording Industry Association of America.”

The RIAA doesn’t yet know what it wants to do “about” podcasting. Poscasting’s not terribly popular yet and even the RIAA (surely) has some residual desire not to be painted as the devil (probably, I am assuming, maybe not). But the record cartel also knows that if this thing gets legs, it could be Napster all over again. Eventually, greed will beat out logic and more lawsuits will be filed against 10 year olds aimed at stopping podcasting in its tracks. The prime objective of the RIAA will be to avoid another Napster at all costs.

To survive podcasters have to confront the elephant. Ignore it and it will eventually charge at you with tusks (and lawyers) raised and ready.

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