If you spend any significant amount of time browsing around YouTube, you’ll notice a surprising number of videos consisting of people busting a move to popular music. It can be anything from a presumably inebriated couple with a camera orientation problem dancing to Prince’s "Kiss" to a solitary college student grooving in his dorm room. Whatever the context, it’s all but certain that the dancers haven’t paid the RIAA for the rights to the song.
That has led to a recent spate of cease-and-desist notices from the music trade group directed at some users of YouTube. Despite the fact that the recordings are generally of poor quality—especially where the audio is concerned—the RIAA is moving to rid the Internet of the scourge of amateur Solid Gold dancers.
Typically, when the RIAA engages in some sort of enforcement action, it claims that the infringing activities are causing it a demonstrable financial loss. It’s hard to see how the RIAA is suffering in any way from the presence of the videos. In fact, the argument could be made that the RIAA is actually benefiting from the videos, much like viral marketing.
YouTube and Google are both likely to emerged unscathed from the RIAA’s actions. Both services warn users against uploading copyrighted material, and both have been quick to pull videos from their site once they have been flagged by the copyright holders.
It seems like a tremendous waste of the RIAA’s apparently near-infinite resources to track down homegrown dance videos like these. Apparently, the record labels are so worried about the possibility of allowing someone to use songs without its express written consent that they are missing out on an opportunity here. That’s not much of a surprise from an industry that has been slow to adapt to the Internet.