So, what do we know?
Why? The evidence would appear to imply that free access to music actually helps the sales of that music, so surely this is something that the recording industry should be encouraging (or at least, deliberately protesting ineffectually about) so, why aren't they?
Because the music sharers aren't the people they're worried about. Nor are the DivX sharers.
Right now, the record companies are the gateway that artists have to pass through to reach a larger public. They managed to enforce their (collective) monopoly because, until recently, distribution of the physical media has been the hard part. Except now, it isn't.
Tools like Napster had the potential for artists to reach a public without giving up their freedom.
Here's a case in point. I'm in the process of getting the master tapes of a tape my wife and her friend's album transferred to CD. The tape is a capella harmony singing, of mostly traditional material; the potential audience is small. But, had AudioGalaxy still been up, it would have been the work of very few moments to add tags to the MP3s providing information, not just about the songs, but pointers to where to buy a 'real' CD. Okay, we wouldn't see many sales, but any sale that we did see would be one more sale than would otherwise have been made. And the music would be out there, where it can be heard.
As the P2P networks get closed down, this sort of distribution becomes harder. Sure, artists can always publish material on their website, but that rules out serendipity. For instance, I was recently looking for recordings of the traditional song Long Black Veil on AudioGalaxy, and found a whole load of versions, by artists I knew and ones I'd never heard of, many of which were fantastic. I also know I'm unlikely to be buying any Dave Matthews Band albums in the future.
And, once the 'rights managed' systems come online, I don't doubt there'll be pressure to sell hardware that can only play managed content. And where does that leave the artist without a recording contract?
I honestly don't think I'm being paranoid. I don't thing the record industry is actively trying to screw us. It's trying to protect its revenue stream into the future by controlling access to the market. And that's so wrong it makes my teeth hurt.