The RIAA can no longer claim that students who are downloading music are costing them thousands of dollars each.

As Barry Ritholz smartly pointed out in his blog, the introduction of Yahoo’s Music Unlimited Service sets the new marketvalue for all the music you can download in a month…5 bucks.

The RIAA can no longer claim that students who are downloading music are costing them thousands of dollars each. They can’t claim much of anything actually. In essence, Yahoo just turned possession of a controlled music substance into a misdemeanor. Payable by a $5 per month fine.

Of course, RIAA staffers won’t go quietly into the night. They will continue to scream loud and hard about evils of illegal downloading. The question is, will they move the money they are currently spending on court cases and filing suit, towards promoting the new subscription services that are available. Particularly Yahoo’s dirt cheap service.

Will they have the sense to say…”Ok kid, you are about to get sued, which will mean we both spend money on lawyers, and then we kick your butt in court and you pay a multi-thousand dollar settlement, OR, you can sign up for any of the all you can eat music subscriptions, Rhapsody, Napster or Yahoo Music. Your choice. 5 bucks a month. Or thousands of bucks.

Will the RIAA mitigate circumstances and turn their efforts toward promoting legal downloads, or will they still get their jollies from suing their customers?

And what about our favorite back pocket politician, Orrin “but Im a songwriter too” Hatch. What will he get on his knees for in order to get money from the music industry? Could he possibly still get worked up and spend our hard earned taxpayer money for crimes whose total economic value is 5 bucks per month. (yes, you were supposed to laugh again.) Will he try to induce people to spend the 5 bucks, or will he still think its necessary to destory users PCs?

How about this Orrin, why don’t you introduce a Utah Loves Music bill, that requires every citizen of the lovely state of Utah (dont laugh here, it really is pretty), to pay a $5 per month music tax? You could negotiate a statewide discounted deal with Yahoo Music Unlimited, grab a few bucks off the top for yourself and the state, and you would have completely rid the entire state of Utah of illegal downloading!

By offering music so economically, Yahoo has changed how the RIAA should and can spread Piraphobia around the country. It should also change the perspective our politicians have about the subject as well. How can the Attorney General divert resources to save the music biz 5 bucks a pop? How can bills be proposed that try to save the music industry 5 bucks a month?

Of course it won’t happen in a straight line. There are RIAA jobs and political contributions to protect. And although the Yahoo and other sub services are not perfect, they will get continuously better and support more and more devices and have increasing flexibility.

This is the low point for subscription services. Which is a good thing. It’s going to get better and better every year.

By Mark Cuban

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