The holidays: they can be stressful for everyone, even local TV news producers who need to fill that two-minute gap between the waterskiing squirrel story and the house fire in the next state that injured no one. You could assign "reporters" to dig up some local "news" of actual community value, but that takes time and money, and frankly, who wants to watch anything that might make them think at 10 PM? Much easier just to let industrysend the news in premade packets. This Christmas season, the RIAA has a present for local news divisions: a video news release about music piracy, complete with exhortations to buy iTunes gift cards and cell phone ringtones.
An anonymous reader, who claims to work for the company that distributed the video package, has posted the alleged video news release online. The video is shockingly bad—the narrator talks too slowly, the pacing is poor, and the "fly-in" bullet points look like they were produced in Windows Movie Maker.
Still, for the first half of the clip, it's generally accurate information about recent busts at duplication facilities. And then come the bullet points. "Watch for compilation CDs that could only exist in the dreams of a music fan," viewers are warned, a statement that only serves to highlight the fact that pirates do a better job of providing what music lovers want than the industry does. Whoops.
Beware the bullets
Then there's this gem: "Audio quality on pirated CDs is usually atrocious." Someone alert the RIAA to how digital copying actually works, please.
From there,the clip moves into straight-ahead advertising. "Make sure the music you buy is legitimate," says the narrator. How? Simple! Just use the "cool, innovative ways to get your favorite music" that the industry offers. The video then shows iTunes digital album gift cardsand a cell phone, for which you can buy Christmas-themed ring tones.
The production values of the video initially led us to suspect it of being a fake, but the leaker has provided Ars with a copy of an alleged press advisory that went out promoting the clip. It's directed to "news assignment desk/consumer reporters," who are more likely to use the footage and basic "storyline" themselves than to simply run the unedited report. The RIAA has not yet responded to our request for authentication of the video.
Lending credence to the video,though, is the fact that it follows a recent RIAA press release almost exactly. Though that release says nothing about a video news feed, it does mention that the RIAA is launching a "holiday anti-piracy campaign" that "offers shoppers innovative gift ideas and tips for avoiding pirate product." The campaign is set to focus on 15 cities with "exceptionally high piracy rates" (every major US city, apparently).
For an industry already the target of so much consumer suspicion, feeding misleading claims and self-serving footage to ostensibly objective "news" outlets just doesn't seem like a great idea. Yes, piracy is bad; yes, we should shut down illegal commercial stamping operations. But trying to turn the news into such an explicit commercial? Unhelpful.