Departing RIAA chief Hilary Rosen yesterday invoked the name of slain black civil rights leader Martin Luther King as she defended the music oligopolies' right to prevent people sharing music. She also vigorously defended poisoning peer to peer sharing networks with junk music - presumably not a situation that the civil rights leader could have envisaged, in a clutch of policy statements that are a must-read for even the most casual music-lover.
Rosen was receiving - we kid you not - the 'Harry Chapin Humanitarian Award' from the US T-shirt-sellers and record shops' guild, the National Association of Recording Merchandisers, or NARM, in Florida.
We obtained a transcript of her speech, a Word document puzzlingly named (as we discovered, down deep in the property tags) "Has its beginnings in our nation's history".
Rosen was "humbled" to receive the gong, she said, and cited Martin Luther King's inspirational words:
"Social change cannot come overnight, but we must always act as though it were a possibility the very next morning."
The speech was Rosen's valedictory as a music industry lobbyist, and it gave her opportunity to reflect on whether she had done good by the industry - this reviled cartel of distributors who have squeezed small artists, punished music sharers and who have now set their sights on snooping on ISPs, extending - quite as an aside - their interpretation of the US constitution into such distant corners of the world as Hong Kong and Australia.
Lord, she was trying.
"It seems to me that in our industry over the last few years too many of us have gone into our respective corners and not wanted to understand the view of the other side. Even when we understand the other view, we have often ignored it, hoping that our own view would ultimately prevail.
"We can no longer afford that kind of thinking.
"It is time to come together. Record companies and retailers, artists and songwriters and publishers, technology companies and radio, policymakers and newsmakers, and everyone in between.
"We are all at a critical juncture in our relationship with music fans and now is our opportunity to put their interests first. Not ours. I firmly believe that when the music consumer is well served, so will we all be as well," she said.
Stirring words that suggest a new approach for the RIAA, but her prescription was very familiar:
"When we speak with one voice about the perils of piracy, when we sing off the same song page, we all benefit."
And she invoked the spirit of the Cluetrain Manifesto to help retailers spread the word about the evils of sharing music:
"You, more than me or anyone else, know your customers. You know their language, their characteristics, their likes and dislikes, what moves them and what doesn't, what sells and what doesn't. Use that knowledge, and the creative marketing talent I know you all possess, to help combat this problem."
See? Touchy-feely marketing has arrived at its final resting place: the RIAA.
Maybe they can all start blogs.
Helping ourselves to P2P Poison
The subject of online music sharing allowed Rosen this astonishing statement:
"The argument is that somehow the record companies seek to encroach upon a consumer's ability to make a personal copy of music. Nonsense. We have always been supportive of the ability of consumers to copy a CD for the gym or for their car. More power to the music fan. The problem is with the student who burns 100 copies for his friends in the dorm or makes available hundreds of files for uploading onto Kazaa."
She also defended the practice - confirmed here at The Register for the first time by insiders - of 'poisoning' the P2P networks with junk files. She had an interesting description of this.
"Record companies have been engaging in 'self-help'", she said.
"For instance, spoofing has demonstrated some promise for early releases. Spoofing is the practice of flooding the peer-to-peer network with bogus files titled the same as the hits. [See "I poisoned P2P networks for the RIAA" - whistleblower ] . The goal is to encourage the user to give up in frustration and go to a legitimate site to get the real thing.
"While individual companies and not the RIAA do this, we know that it is having a positive benefit on new releases," she said.
But perhaps she's too modest. The poisoning was ordered by the RIAA, say insiders. Nevertheless, she characterized it as "an important tool."
Then there's the borked, CPRM'd CD. Rosen justified this as follows:
"CD Protection technologies are another important element of 'self help' strategies.
"While the technology is apparently not quite ready, there is promise for some protective technologies, which would offer consumers use of their music on the computer and still prevent uploading onto the Internet. While there are no specific plans to release such products into the marketplace at this time, if they are produced, record companies will need to work closely with retailers to assure that the proper consumer education and labeling takes place. "
Which we take as a tacit admission that the various crippleware schemes that the labels have tried, in an attenpt to prevent audio CDs being ripped, have failed.
Then there's the ultimate goal: stifling P2P sharing by intimidating ISPs into grassing out their users.
Rosen explained it like this:
"Verizon has unfortunately turned this case into a bogus claim to protect their members' privacy rights. Well first of all, there is no right to commit a crime in private. And second and more importantly, when you are on one of these p2p systems and have opened your hard drive and its contents to the network, you have given away your own privacy."
Your privacy? That's news. She continued:
"Claiming privacy after the fact is the same as if I was walking down Fifth Avenue holding up a sign and then claimed you violated my right to privacy if you read it. Users on P2P systems who want privacy should check the box that prevents your files from being shared. You will protect your privacy and conveniently enough, you will also protect yourself from breaking the law."
Casual sharers were not the RIAA's target, she insisted. Unfortunately, to buttress her case, Rosen chose to repeat the bogus figure of "the equivalent of 421 CD-R burners" that were caught in December's raid on a wholesale music copier, which as we reported here, was a figure plucked out of the air. (See RIAA in a spin over copying bust.
She did not expend a word on the fate of Internet Radio.
Bon voyage, midshipmen
But the most breathtaking part of Rosen's valedictory was early in her speech, when she proposed the serving forces of the US military the very best that the RIAA could offer:
"Our country is on edge now and probably at the brink of war," she said.
"While there are certainly diverse views in the music industry about a war, I know I speak for everyone here that if diplomatic efforts fail and a war begins, we in the music community will be supporting our troops with everything at our disposal."
Everything, we suppose, including courts martial for midshipmen who are caught sharing music. ®