RIAA’s Rosen addresses Janis Ian’s USA Today editorial:
- Janis Ian’s USA TODAY column (Oct 23rd, “Music industry spins falsehood”) so blatantly mischaracterizes both the RIAA position as well as that of most record company executives that I know on several different issues that a response is merited.
First, I must say that I am a huge fan of Janis Ian’s music. Her music has meant so much to me and hundreds of thousands of fans over the years. She is also a thoughtful and creative writer and an admirably impressive businesswoman. It is unfortunate that during this new, and extremely successful, phase of her career she chooses to attack and demean those who have chosen a different path – say for instance, artists and executives who work with major record companies.
All of the enforcement efforts that the RIAA has engaged in over the years have been focused on two goals: to foster the development of a new, legitimate on-line music business to serve fans and to give artists and copyright owners a choice about how their music is distributed. If Janis wants to give her music away because, in her view, it furthers her career goals, more power to her. But artists deserve the choice. And under the current scenario of so-called “file sharing” P-2-P networks, they don’t have that choice. The music is just taken freely.
It was not the choice of the more than 120 artists – of all genres, niches and styles – who joined the “Who Really Cares About Illegal Downloading” education campaign to have their music offered up for free on unauthorized peer-to-peer networks. Yes, of course they give away their music for promotional purposes – but they want to decide how.
I’m sorry Janis, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t pledge fealty to the importance of the artist’s choice on one hand, then on the other hand criticize the artists and music groups – who include, by the way, organizations representing singers, songwriters and small record labels as well as the majors – who want to publicize how illegal downloading is harmful because it robs them of that choice.
People should know that Janis is also unfortunately misinformed about both the law and current litigation when she suggests that RIAA recently went to court to seek new powers to sue users. The power to sue for copyright infringement already exists. It, in fact, has been in the copyright law for many, many years. The record companies have recently gone to court because we asked Verizon to conform to a subpoena and give us the names of the identified infringers on their network so that warning them is an option instead of having to sue them. Verizon’s response was – no, you must sue everyone with “John Doe” lawsuits after which Verizon would comply and hand over identity information because at that point it would not involve their company. They are not in court to protect their consumers from us as Janis suggests. They are in court to get themselves out of the way and to force us to sue their users directly. If she is so opposed to the idea of lawsuits, she should oppose Verizon in this case, not us.
RIAA’s enforcement efforts have never been against downloaders. They are against uploaders. There is a difference. The notion that Janis defends individuals offering up hundreds or thousands of copyrighted works to others by suggesting that they are “learning” more about music when they do it is just absurd. Especially because in the same breath she says that copyright protection is “vital” and she is “against indiscriminate downloading.” It is difficult to believe that an individual anonymously offering a thousand music files over the Internet to millions of downloaders is somehow not engaged in an “indiscriminate” act. Sharing music files with millions of people you don’t know is some personal, close-knit experience? You can’t have it both ways.
Not surprisingly, CD shipments to retailers dropped 7 percent for the first half of 2002. This comes on top of a 5 percent decline last year. Given the prolific amount of “file sharing,” the record industry should be experiencing an unprecedented economic boom under Janis’ logic that this helps sell records. It is not.
These uploaders supplying millions of files on a daily basis are having a negative impact on record sales and the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of songwriters, musicians, artists and everyone who supports their work in the production, marketing, manufacturing, promotion, broadcast and distribution businesses.
Clearly the record industry has not moved a legitimate on-line music business to serve music fans as fast as they or anyone else would have liked. But those legitimate businesses are out there now and they are getting better every day. What hasn’t changed though are the values I was taught when I was young. Stealing is wrong, no matter how you try and justify it by painting the victim as the bad guy.
Angry tirades against virtually everyone in the music community may help get headlines for a contrarian, but it does nothing to advance a thoughtful dialogue about how to address these serious issues.
You can compare the statements for yourself and draw your own conclusions; but I find it interesting that the RIAA position over the last few months has moved quite a way toward incorporating downloads as part of their business – you would not have seen this line even as recently as our opening in August: “Clearly the record industry has not moved a legitimate on-line music business to serve music fans as fast as they or anyone else would have liked.”
They’re only doing it now because they have been forced to. There are now cracks in the structure – those of you who live in wintery climes know what happens when salt and ice gets in those cracks in the road.