HITS Daily Double
"The digital transformation of the music business is not coming—it’s here. Now there are multiple ways for music fans to buy or subscribe to great legitimate music online. And consumers will enjoy even more new products in the coming years, thanks to technological advances."
——Hilary Rosen, Chairman/CEO, RIAA


Or at Least They’ve Issued a Joint Announcement Stressing Voluntary Anti-Piracy Measures
The RIAA has joined the Business Software Alliance (BSA) and the Computer Systems Policy Project—two organizations repping big tech firms—in an agreement on principles regarding new legislation on piracy.

Though the record biz has been at loggerheads with technology companies for some time over such issues as CD copying and online file sharing, the new agreement suggests common ground, emphasizing voluntary measures over intrusive government solutions.

The BSA’s constituents include Microsoft, Apple (whose iPod players and iTunes software were marketed to anti-label renegades), Dell, IBM and Intel, among others, while CSPP numbers Motorola and Hewlett-Packard (makers of a popular line of CD-burners, among other gear) as well as IBM, Intel and Dell among its members.

The agreement emphasizes market forces and cooperation between content owners and technology makers as the touchstones of a profitable future for digital entertainment, declaring "how companies satisfy consumer expectations is a business decision that should be driven by the marketplace, and should not be legislated or regulated."

In addition to the announced statement of principles, the organizations will assemble a committee of "senior executives from their member companies" to act on their shared priorities. Oh, to be a fly on the wall.

The 108th Congress, both houses of which are controlled by Republicans, may be even less inclined to support the traditional agenda of the recording industry than its predecessor, so a degree of flexibility and an emphasis on private-sector self-regulation would seem to be vital in the current climate.

Still, the Democrats ain’t out of the picture. In fact, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI)—who sits on the House Judiciary Committee—issued a statement in response to the new announcement.

"It is long past time for a solution to the problem of Internet shoplifting, and I commend the content and high-tech industries for trying to work out the digital piracy problem through marketplace negotiations," reads Conyers’ statement. "For too long, too many artists and creators have had the fruits of their labor stolen over the Internet. Rampant piracy is threatening the financial viability of our recording and movie industries, and will no doubt continue as a critical priority for Congress. My colleagues and I will be monitoring these negotiations very closely, and I am prepared to press for legislative action should the negotiations break down."

While the RIAA had for some time echoed the MPAA’s demand for government intervention to fight CD piracy and unauthorized swapping, the new pact suggests a canny shift in the organization’s policy—and happens to coincide with an interview with RIAA chief Hilary Rosen in the new issue of monthly tech bible Wired. In the mag, Rosen combats some of the claims made about her and is pictured listening to an MP3 player.

"The digital transformation of the music business is not coming—it’s here," Rosen pointed out in the announcement of the new agreement. "Now there are multiple ways for music fans to buy or subscribe to great legitimate music online. And consumers will enjoy even more new products in the coming years, thanks to technological advances."

Rosen added that the RIAA hoped to avoid legislative quagmires and public mudslinging in the next period, focusing its lobbying before Congress on enforcement of laws against copyright infringement. In this, as in a stated need for "privately funded public awareness efforts," she got backup from the tech consortia, which endorsed limited action by rights-holders to constrain unauthorized distribution.

"This agreement represents a sea change in the debate over protecting digital content," said CSPP Executive Director Ken Kay. "These principles ensure the future of the digital age for consumers and should serve as the blueprint for collaboration on digital issues between the content and technology industries. Plus, now I have a shot at meeting that Sheryl Crow—she’s dreamy."

Added BSA President/CEO Robert Holleyman, "This is a landmark agreement because it shows that a broad cross-section of companies have come to the conclusion that government-mandated technology protection measures simply won’t work. The technology industry—more than anyone—knows this. And today’s agreement shows that the companies that are hard-hit by Internet piracy understand this. Now can someone tell me how to get this stupid dancing paper-clip guy off my desktop?"