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The Back Page
by Bryan Chaffin

Ding Dong, The Witch Is (Almost) Dead! RIAA Head Wrongdoer Hilary Rosen To Step Down
January 23rd, 2003

On Wednesday, Hilary Rosen announced her intention to step down as Chairman and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) at the end of 2003. She stated her reason for leaving as wanting to spend more time with her family.

Ms. Rosen has been the leader of most of the assaults on the Fair Use doctrine in the United States for the last several years. Under her watch, the RIAA's member record labels have seen their profits fall as the industry focused on trying to stop digital file sharing rather than looking for new ways of doing business in the digital age. In the process, the group has shut down such dens of piracy as Napster, and attempted to shut down other file sharing networks.

The RIAA was also a prime supporter of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the act that effectively makes it illegal to back up DVDs, electronic books that are encrypted, and many other things that have long been considered to be covered by the Fair Use doctrine. The DMCA has even been used to prevent scholastic research on encryption and decryption techniques, as well as preventing a Web site from even linking to DeCSS, a tool used to decrypt DVDs for use on Linux, and the only way (at the time) to watch (legal) DVDs on Linux. In other words, in the land where free speech is protected by the US Constitution, the DMCA has made it illegal to link to something big media companies find threatening, even though that something has legitimate Fair Use uses.

In addition, the trade group's members have instituted copy protected CDs, and other attempts at making it difficult or impossible for people who legally owned their music to make digital backups or copies of that music. In some cases, those music discs, for technically they are not "CDs," have not been playable on computers, and even ruined drives in the process. This despite the fact that many people prefer to play their legally owned music on their computers.

The group has also sued a variety of companies, such as ISPs, in an attempt to get those companies to pay the RIAA because piracy can, and does, happen amongst those companies' users. All of these things have happened under Hilary Rosen's watch as head of the RIAA. From the trade group:

Washington D.C. (January 22, 2003) - Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) Chairman and CEO Hilary Rosen, announced today that she will leave the organization at the end of 2003. Rosen, who was named CEO in 1998 and has been with RIAA for 17 years has been the recording industry's chief advocate and spokesperson during a time of unprecedented change in the music business.

"This has been the most exciting job I can imagine," Rosen said.

"During my tenure here, the recording industry has undergone dramatic challenges and it is well positioned for future success. I have been extremely proud to be a part of this industry transition.

"But, I have young children and I want to devote more of my time to them. This has been an extremely difficult decision but I know it is the right one for my family.

"Nonetheless, this is a critical time and I have much to do in the coming months. We continue to face unprecedented levels of on-line piracy as well as a changing market in physical piracy here and abroad.

"RIAA has much to do to address these issues as well as help the companies transition the music consumer to the exciting offerings everyone has been working so hard to deliver in the legitimate on-line music business. We must also work with our partners at retail, in the creative and technology industries and with governments worldwide to promote the future growth of the music industry.

"The Board will be conducting a formal search for my replacement over the next several months and we are confident of a smooth transition. I believe that the RIAA staff is simply the best in the business and I am proud of the team we have built.

"Cary Sherman will remain in his current position as RIAA President and the Board and I have asked him to serve on the search committee," concluded Rosen.

You can get more information at the RIAA's Web site.

I am glad to see Ms. Rosen go, and my only regret is that she not wait until the end of 2003 to do so. She has been instrumental in keeping the recording industry mired in the thought that it is still 1983. In the process, she has harmed the very fabric of our society in her attempts to wrest control over the way legally owned content is used by customers. The DMCA, for instance, is one of the most disgusting laws on the books, and the RIAA lobbied hard for its passing. It simply puts far too much power in the hand of big media companies.

The killer aspect of all this is that the recording industry has really only managed to hasten its own irrelevance in the digital age, and that did not have to happen. Had the RIAA put even 1% of the energy and resources into finding a new, relevant, business model as it did in trying to stop file sharing, the industry would be much healthier and happier today.

I specifically hope her replacement at the RIAA has a better understanding of what is happening around him or her. I hope that this person has the foresight to understand that record label profits can not be protected by making it harder for us to listen to our music in the manner that we want. I hope that her replacement will have the simple ability to understand that it is a sluggish economy, high prices for CDs, and the incredible levels of utter mediocrity in the crap being put out by the record labels, not to mention the labels' own behavior in regards to file sharing, that is responsible for falling profits, and not piracy.

Good bye, Ms. Rosen. We shan't miss you.


began using Apple computers in 1983 in a high school BASIC programming class. He started using Macs in 1990 when the Kinko's guy taught him how to use Aldus PageMaker, finally buying a Power Computing Power 100 in 1995. Today, Bryan is the Editor of The Mac Observer, and has contributed to the print versions of MacAddict and MacFormat (UK).

You can send your comments directly to him, or you can also post your comments below.

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