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RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America)

The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) is an organization that represents the music recording industry's intellectual property rights. The organization has taken an especially aggressive stance against Internet users who want to be able to freely copy published music. RIAA states that its mission is "to foster a business and legal climate that supports and promotes our members' creative and financial vitality." According to an RIAA estimate, its members create, manufacture, or distribute about 90% of all legally made audio recordings that are produced and sold in the United States.

A major focus of the RIAA's attention is piracy or the illegal copying and distribution of sound recordings. RIAA classifies music piracy into four (possibly overlapping) categories.

  • Pirate recordings -  illegally duplicated copies of the sound portion of a lawful recording, without any duplication of the packaging.
  • Counterfeit recordings -  illegally duplicated copies of the sound and its packaging, so that, for example, a counterfeit CD resembles the legitimate product.
  • Bootleg recordings - illegal recordings of live or broadcast music.
  • Online piracy - the unauthorized uploading or downloading of copyrighted media to or from a Web site.

This last category is increasingly practiced, and particularly difficult to defend against. RIAA's recommendations for anti-piracy measures are sometimes controversial, with some people believing that they infringe on individual rights, such as the right to privacy of information. For example, many people believe that they have a right to share information from their computers, as long as the exchange is not for profit. RIAA, on the other hand, considers such sharing of copyrighted media to be theft.

For more information, visit the RIAA Web site.

This was last updated in March 2011

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