Testifying before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee,
Napster interim CEO Hank Barry today suggested that legislation should be put in place to guarantee that Internet music listeners will be able to hear their favorite artists.
Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) President and CEO Hilary Rosen is singing a different tune — she said that the recording industry is proceeding just fine with myriad licensing arrangements that will insure Internet users will be able to hear commercial music.
Barry recommended that Congress consider an industry-wide licensing model similar to that used for radio and television stations. “I strongly believe such a change is necessary, an important step for the Internet and that it will be good for artists, listeners and businesses,” said Barry.
Barry advocates modeling legislation after the “writer’s share” payments collected from public performances broadcast on radio and television. A portion of those payments, collected by ASCAP and BMI, go directly to the songwriter.
“Music on the radio works because of what is functionally an industry wide license. Cable television. Satellite television. Web casting. You in the Congress have effectively encouraged new technologies through industry wide licensing in a way that fostered competition and benefited consumers and creators alike,” said Barry.
“Copyright requires a constant balance between the public’s interest in promoting creative expression and the public’s interest in having access to those works. This is a balance that has often proven impossible to find without the help of the Congress,” suggested Barry.
The RIAA’s Rosen outlined the myriad technical and procedural issues the recording industry is grappling with, ranging from what digital music formats to support to how to make sure that royalties are paid. Rosen urged the committee to be cautious of calls to legislate the recording industry’s activity.
“All of these questions are important and they are being answered every day. And not just for the United States, for these are global issues. For if there is one thing this Committee well knows, the Internet is a global distribution system and it must be treated as such. You simply can’t have a long-term successful business if you are not thinking about multiple territories,” said Rosen.
Regarding licensing the way that Barry envisions it, Rosen’s recent comments may provide some insight about what’s happening within the recording industry itself.
“Coming up with a standardized royalty rate for all manners of business models — most of which haven’t even been invented yet — is a daunting task, but we’re committed to getting it done,” said Rosen.
And despite the RIAA’s continued complaints against Napster — most recently, suggesting that the music sharing service’s filtering isn’t working — Rosen said that the RIAA would continue to cooperate.
“We look forward to Napster complying fully with the requirements the court has imposed. To date they certainly have not — but I remain optimistic and am committed to working productively with them in this regard,” said Rosen.