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Thu, Oct 02, 2003 - Page 12 News List

Music industry takes its piracy fight to Capitol Hill


Jack Valenti, left, president and CEO of the Motion Picture Association looks on as LL Cool J, right, a recording artist, testifies before the US Senate Government Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday. Members on the panel expressed their concerns about the illegal downloading of copyrighted materials, including music and movies, on the Internet.


The music industry defended its hard-line effort to crack down on online piracy Tuesday at a US congressional hearing, while critics called the effort heavy-handed and backward-looking.

The chairman of Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), described the campaign involving hundreds of lawsuits, told a Senate panel the industry had no other option to protect itself against rampant theft of music on the Internet.

"The decision to enforce our rights against egregious infringers was taken only after suffering years of mounting harm and trying all other avenues," RIAA chairman Mitch Bainwol told the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.

Bainwol said the "root cause" for the dramatic decline in record sales -- 26 percent in the past three years -- is "the astronomical rate of music piracy on the Internet. Computer users illegally download more than 2.6 billion copyrighted files [mostly recordings] every month."

But Alan Morris, executive vice president of Sharman Networks, the company that operates Kazaa, the most popular file-sharing network, called the music industry irresponsible.

"What we have witnessed in the recent RIAA litigation against consumers can only be considered a backward step in a market that is growing with rapid momentum," Morris said.

Morris called it a mistake to blame file-sharing or "peer-to-peer" (P2P) networks for the industry's woes.

"Today, as with the VCR in the early 1980s, a new technology has emerged that affords consumer a way to acquire and enjoy content. This way is better, faster, cheaper and more convenient than the existing retail channels. However, the entertainment industry chooses not to capitalize on this new technology -- because they are not yet in position to control distribution in this channel."

Separately, file-swapping companies unveiled a code of conduct as one of the first measures aimed at cleaning up their image.

The new trade group representing major peer-to-peer technology, P2P United, said the code calls on members to take steps to prevent the software from being used for child pornography, and to "prominently" display a warning that copying music without consent of the copyright holder is illegal.

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