Open Letter to Hilary Rosen

Kurt Nimmo

Ms. Rosen, I am writing this letter, some would say with futility, to you in regard to the RIAA’s actions against, which your organization has accused of facilitating copyright infringement. Since you do not have a direct email account with the RIAA, or does your organization have a general email address for letters such as this, and in the past all efforts to send email to you and the RIAA have bounced, I will instead post this letter on the Web. I hope you get a chance to read it, but my suspicion is that even if you do happen to read it, I will not receive a response. In fact, it is my opinion that the RIAA is not interested in criticism of any kind from the general public, especially from concerned musicians and Internet users such as myself. Never mind that your powerful organization is working diligently to deny me and other independent musicians our right to produce music in any format we choose and without imposed restrictions. It is apparently not enough that you desire to deny non-industry musicians the right to encode and distribute their music – you are now moving forward to deny millions of people an integral cornerstone of the Internet – the very idea of hyperlinking.

According to you and the RIAA, mere linking to MP3 files is a crime. Instead of going after individual sites offering MP3 files, you seem to believe a legal solution hobbling the elemental technology of hyperlinking is in order. This is not only dangerous, but I would contend potentially criminal. As you may or may not know, if you are successful in your attempt to outlaw free hyperlinking, the Web will cease to be the medium it is today. If you win a judgment against, links all over the Web will dry up and blow away – obviously, few people want to face the possibility of being sued for merely linking to sites that may or may not contain supposedly illegal material. There are millions of links on the Web and it is unreasonable for you or anybody else to think each one of these links can be checked for the possibility of criminal behavior, especially considering that most hyperlinking is now performed in an automated fashion by spiders and indexing programs.

Of course, I am sure you and the RIAA could care less if you damage the Web – your primary concern is to maintain and grow your margins, which you contend are being depleted by the mere existence of the Internet and the MP3 file format. Moreover, your demand that hyperlinking be hobbled in order to circumvent supposed copyright violations strikes at the heart of the First Amendment. However, if your past actions are any indication, the RIAA has little faith in the Constitution of the United States. As I am sure you are aware, the Constitution provides for the “useful arts” and the public domain in regard to intellectual property, yet your organization and the recording industry has consistently plotted against this concept in court and within the arena of public opinion. I find it disturbing that a trade group is able to lobby for the passage of laws that diminish the public domain and run counter to the beliefs of the founding fathers. Hilary, if you and the RIAA, and the large multinational corporations you represent, are opposed to the concepts enshrined within the Constitution, maybe you might consider relocating operations to a country where freedom and liberty are of less importance. We can no longer tolerate your malicious tinkering with the philosophical underpinnings of democracy in America.

Finally, as a musician and American citizen, I will continue to struggle against the draconian proposals you have in mind for us. As you may be aware, there is a new audio format afoot on the Internet – Vorbis, which is non-proprietary and freely available. I will urge musicians and music lovers to use this format to encode their music – both the original music they produce and the CD-based music they have purchased – in this new format. Unlike the MP3 format, Vorbis is not “owned,” a concept I am sure terrifies you and the recording industry, since there is nobody you can sue or send cease and desist letters to ad infinitum. As well, I will support MP3Board in its effort to resist your acts of legal terrorism and continual intimidation. You may easily intimidate a few Internet hosting services, force them to evict the MP3Board site from their servers, but as you well know there is no shortage of such services. Unlike AboveNet Communications, a service that unfortunately buckled under threats issued from your organization, other services may not give in so easily to your heavy-handed threats.

Again, I realize that you may never read this letter, or if you do it will be disregarded out of hand. Rest assured there thousands of us out here – independent free spirits, freedom loving citizens of the vast Internet community, musicians and music lovers – who will resist your attempts to distort the character and lifestyle of the Internet. You may win in the short run, but over the long haul I am sure the courts will rule against your selfish interests to lock up music, damage the useful arts and the public domain, and force deadly changes on technologies you are unable to understand, modify, distort, and diminish in order to continue your domination and monopolization of not only music but the human spirit.

Kurt Nimmo

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