An Open Letter to Hilary Rosen
I am writing this to voice my concern over recent actions taken by your organization, the Recording Industry Association of America. It seems a day does not pass that I do not see your organization mentioned in the media - engaged in various lawsuits against companies and individuals who disagree with you and the RIAA on how music will be distributed over the Internet. These lawsuits and the subsequent media coverage generated by it have lately taken on an ugly tone, culminating this past week in Metallica, whom you represent, threatening to go after individual users of the Napster program.
I must strenuously protest these actions by the RIAA, Metallica, and their lawyer, Howard King. While I strongly disagree with your reaction to the free trading of MP3 files and sharing of music, that is not why I am writing this letter. I am writing because, as a musician, I feel that you and the RIAA are attacking me personally. I believe that, in the RIAA's zeal to make sure the recording industry retains complete control over its music catalog and dictate not only what consumers will hear, but also how they will listen to their music, you have trampled over the rights of musicians such as myself.
Please allow me to explain. It is no secret that your intention is completely destroy Napster and the small company that supports this software program. For you and the bands you represent, this is a good thing - it will put a dent in the supposedly illegal trading of MP3 files, most of which contain the work of the musicians you represent. However, for a musician such as myself, the closing of Napster and the potential shuttering of MP3.com, who you have sued and won a judgment against as well, these actions are disastrous.
Hilary, I share my music - which is not copyrighted or part of your client's lucrative catalog - by way of Napster, Gnutella, and MP3.com. These are my primary distribution channels. I have spent a lot of time nurturing these sources, especially MP3.com, where I have an account and people download my free music on a daily basis. If you manage to drive these people out of business, as appears to be your intention, you will deprive me of my distribution and small fan base. I will have no way - short of email attachment or handing out CD-Rs - to share my music with fans. I find this not only disrespectful, but criminal. Why should I surrender the right to distribute my music so you can guarantee the immense income of a handful of superstars such as Paul McCartney, Dr. Dre, and Lars Ulrich?
Of course, that I might lose my distribution channels so you and the bands you represent at RIAA - or should I say the large corporations you represent - may continue to reap stellar profits (approximately 16 billion dollars last year) is entirely unfair. This, obviously, is of little concern to the RIAA. For you and the RIAA, the smaller independent musicians do not enter into the equation. Apparently, either do consumers, who are also having alternative music channels systematically attacked by your trade organization and the huge entertainment corporations who feel that there is only one kind of music - that which is issued by them at high prices. As well, it would seem, you want to deny music lovers the right to listen to their music on devices other than CD players and home stereos. For me, and many others, it was a good day when you lost the lawsuit against Diamond Rio.
As one person - without the resources of lawyers and slick public relations machines at my disposal - I have few options. I can write letters to you and Lars Ulrich. Lars, of course, did not respond to my letter - which was ultimately published on the parody web site, Paylars.com - nor do I expect you to either. Why should you? I am not making money for the recording industry. I am not paying your salary.
Please note that I will encourage people to use Gnutella to download music. I no longer care if they download supposedly illegal MP3 files. This is no longer my concern - the free distribution of my own music is. Thankfully, Gnutella is a small program developed by a dispersed base of GNU developers. I'm sure you don't care about this, but simply want the program eliminated. You ignore it at your peril, because this anarchistic method of development and distribution is what will prevent you from wiping out Gnutella or any of its many clones. You may be able to track down a few developers and sue them, maybe even throw them in prison, but this will not stop the spread of Gnutella and the free sharing of music files. Ultimately, I predict, out of desperation, you will go after individual Gnutella users. As Metallica has learned, this tactic alienates fans, even turns them against the band. I know this personally, considering the responses my open letter to Lars Ulrich has received. In the end, you will lose and people will continue to share music files.
I hope, as always, that they will share my music as well.
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