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Despite the music industry's heroic efforts to produce, promote and distribute the finest fruits of American artistic genius, sales of CDs fell seven percent in the first half of 2002, after falling 5.3 per cent overall in 2001, the Recording Industry Ass. of America reports.

Because of the exceptional brilliance and innovation evident in today's pop offerings, discussions of dwindling consumer interest in vapid, predictable cliche products would clearly be out of place. No, the industry is doing everything right, so the only possible explanation for a loss of revenue has got to be the pestilence of Internet piracy.

Or so the RIAA and its collaborator, consulting outfit PriceWaterhouse-Coopers, have concluded: "Illegal Internet downloading is displacing sales and helping explain a seven per cent drop in CD shipments and a 69.9 per cent increase in counterfeit/pirate optical disc seizures," the organization says.

Now, hang on a second. How does an increase in downloads 'explain' an increase disc seizures? The implication here, twisted though it might be, is that seizures are a gauge of Internet trading. The more trading is going on, the more discs there will be to seize. But of course, if the contents are being disseminated electronically on the Net, counterfeit discs have nothing to do with it either a priori or a posteriori.

The RIAA and PWC can shove that argument up their own posteriori. The increase in seizures is due to the RIAA's increasing aggressiveness as a crime-fighting paramilitary organization. But it is a good illustration of the desperate Sophism with which the industry seeks to lay the blame for its own failures on someone else's shoulders. The strategy is simple: criminalize a group of people, then blame them for the unpleasant outcomes of everything you do wrong. It works for governments; it will work just as well for mega-industries.

Of course the US economy has been in the dumps since 2001 and spending on frivolous luxuries has been reined in, which might have an impact on music sales. But the RIAA has considered this possibility and determined that it's not a significant issue.

"Though other factors like the decline in consumer spending have played a role, Cary Sherman, President of the RIAA, said that illegal music downloading was the main culprit in the drop in sales," the lobbying group explains.

Clearly the RIAA knows its enemy, and has the numbers to 'prove' it. We just wonder who they'll blame if they ever achieve their government-mandated DRM copyright paradise, and sales continue to disappoint. ®

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