RIAA: Music downloaders hurting Haiti

Because a charity album benefiting Haiti was made available through file sharing sites, the music industry says humanitarian efforts have been undermined.

In January, various artists recorded a live album entitled “Hope for Haiti Now,” whose proceeds go to the Red Cross and other relief organizations to aid Haiti after a massive earthquake occurred there on January 12. The Recording Industry Association of America pointed out in a blog post that the album has appeared on The Pirate Bay, Torrentz and other file-sharing sites.

“The posting highlights a truly ugly side of P2P piracy – the undermining of humanitarian fundraising efforts via online theft of the “Hope for Haiti Now” compilation,” the RIAA wrote.

Maybe that’s true for a very small number of people, but as Music Ally learned, illegal downloads of “Hope for Haiti Now” were minimal, according to statistics from piracy tracking firm BigChampagne. Torrent downloads of the album peaked below 5,000 downloads per day, compared to over 90,000 illegal downloads of Lady Gaga’s hit album The Fame Monster (graph below). Clearly, most file sharers weren’t too interested in undermining humanitarian aid.

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RIAA: Music downloaders hurting Haiti

But wait, you argue, what if the Haiti relief album wasn’t very popular to begin with? Turns out, it was. The Hollywood Reporter noted that “Hope for Haiti Now” was the biggest one-day album pre-order in iTunes history, and became the top-selling album in 18 countries. According to Nielsen Soundscan, the album sold 171,000 copies in its debut weekend, and become the first digital-only album to reach the top of the Billboard 200 chart.

I won’t defend the thousands of people who did download “Hope for Haiti Now” through file-sharing sites. TechDirt argues that these downloaders may have directed donations elsewhere, but there’s no way to prove that. However, we can prove that despite the prevalence of music piracy, an overwhelming number of people had their hearts in the right place, no matter how the RIAA tries to spin it.

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