WASHINGTON -- In testimony today before a key congressional hearing on proposed “net neutrality” legislation, Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) CEO Mitch Bainwol encouraged Internet service providers (ISPs) to work with the content community to adopt effective marketplace solutions to digital copyright theft -- the root cause of any network congestion -- but added that if voluntary agreements could not be reached, government action may be necessary.
In his remarks before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, Bainwol said that the glut of illegal file trading had produced “devastating effects” for the music community and “become so severe that it is causing significant congestion over our broadband networks, degrading the online experience for consumers and imposing unnecessary costs on ISPs.”
Referring to legislation introduced by Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Chip Pickering (R-Miss.), Bainwol said that the two Congressmen deserved enormous credit for “properly recognizing the important distinction between lawful and unlawful content. Our view is that the marketplace is generally a better mechanism than regulation for addressing such complex issues as how to address online piracy, and we believe the marketplace should be given the chance to succeed. We are encouraged by some of the recent dialogue between content companies and ISPs about this problem. If effective marketplace solutions cannot be reached soon, however, then government regulation may well be necessary.”
The RIAA’s CEO emphasized that the “music industry continues to work creatively with other companies to create legitimate online avenues for the dissemination of music. And in recent months, RIAA and our member companies have been engaged in constructive discussions with a number of ISPs about ways to address the piracy problem, including mechanisms like graduated response policies, longer-range technological approaches, and business solutions through negotiations between individual music companies and ISPs that can capture the value of music being consumed by subscribers. We are cautiously optimistic that such discussions will lead to tangible results.”
At the same time, Bainwol noted that some ISPs still turn a “blind eye” to online theft. “These ISPs would just as soon pretend that congestion was not fundamentally a problem directly connected to theft. And some prefer to cure congestion with greater efficiency – solving their problem, but compounding ours.”
“We’re heartened by this examination of these important issues and the emerging consensus recognizing that Internet freedom isn’t synonymous with a Wild West in which the taking of our property is accepted, or at best, ignored,” added Bainwol. “The distinction between lawful and unlawful activity must be the cornerstone of both private market discussions and public policy.”
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is the trade organization that supports and promotes the creative and financial vitality of the major music companies. Its members comprise the most vibrant record industry in the world. RIAA® members create, manufacture and/or distribute approximately 85% of all legitimate recorded music produced and sold in the United States.
In support of this mission, the RIAA works to protect the intellectual property and First Amendment rights of artists and music labels; conduct consumer, industry and technical research; and monitor and review state and federal laws, regulations and policies. The RIAA® also certifies Gold®, Platinum®, Multi-Platinum™ and Diamond sales awards as well as Los Premios De Oro y Platino™, an award celebrating Latin music sales.
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