So who is Hilary Rosen you may ask. Well until a couple of years ago she headed up the RIAA (yes those nice people who sue their clients’ customers; aka Recording Industry Association of America). Hilary was responsible initiating the legal pursuit of downloaders, original closure of Napster, promotion of DRM etc. Hilary has a business partner (Jason Berman) a former member of the IFPI (the global parent of the RIAA, BPI etc).
So these two aren’t much loved by a notable proportion of net users. Now, I’m not going to argue about the legalities of downloading, beyond saying that some artists allow recordings to be made freely available and for free, and fans should be allowed take advantage of this. My message being, and this is important – downloading music does not automatically equate to illegal activity. One further final beef with the thinking within the RIAA et al – if I purchase music, regardless of means I should be allowed to listen to it on the device of my choice.
Right now lets get back to Hilary & co. So you’d think a consultancy with these people would be all up for restriction of music, but nope; they have changed their tune a little. Well actually I’d say a lot, to the point of a U turn. Perhaps they’ve seen how much the RIAA has alienated people to the point record label bosses are rebelling. So what is Hilary saying now? Well she now consults for XM Satellite. The XM Satellite company that is delivering radio via satellite for the USA and has some very serious backing. The really intriguing thing is that XM are also involved in pushing receivers for their service including a time shifting receiver/player. A Tivo or Sky+ for radio if you like. So believe it or not, Rosen is backing XM saying that there is nothing wrong with this, although the RIAA beg to differ and it’s all going to end up in court.
To me the argument over radio time shifting is no different to the argument about video recorders when they first came out – and we saw what happened there. So logic would dictate Hilary might be right here. But hey, the MGM vs Grokster case which used the same video recorder argument (often called the Sony Betamax ruling) which argues that the technology and how it was applied are separate issues was overturned, so the device can record and the content being recorded is down to the user. So the situation isn’t so cut and dried. Given the outcome of these cases it seems that money talks even in the law courts in the US of A, so this could end up being who has deepest pockets.
End of story? Well no, funnily enough that other pain in digitised music – DRM as been criticised by Hilary. Well more specifically the fact that Apple will not share their DRM so locking you into iTunes. You can see what she says here in the Huffington Post.
So with the French legislation pushing towards breaking the iTunes lock-in and increasing clamour for FairTrade DRM to be changed. The coming months are going to interesting for the future of digital music.
This does leave me in the position of saying I have to agree with Hilary Rosen at the moment. But who knows for next year.