There is an incredible six-page New York Times article on the January 16 RIAA-endorsed (at a minimum) raid of DJ Drama's Atlanta studio. The number of legal issues this case is going to confront (should it go to trial) is astounding.
First of all, and not necessarily a legal issue, is what the hell were the record labels thinking? Drama was instrumental in the start of the careers of Lil' Jon and T.I. and is responsible in a huge way for the recent resurgence in Lil' Wayne's popularity. Say what you will about their talents (especially Lil' Jon's), but there is no doubt that those artist and others have made the record labels lots and lots of money.
Secondly, can these artists be held responsible for copyright violations if the RIAA has given tacit approval to their actions? If record labels leak tracks to these DJs and pay them upwards of $10,000 to build hype for upcoming studio releases, are they endorsing the mixtape industry? And if so, why the hell would the RIAA raid these DJs? Miscommunication? Unfortunately, though, there is likely little or no evidence of such transactions ever happening, considering the underground nature of the mixtape industry.
Which brings me to another issue... How does this affect the artists? There is also little reliable evidence of mixtape sales, but there are plenty of allegations of mixtape DJs fudging figures so they can underpay the artist.
Who is going to win? Anyone?