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RIAA, Software Group Agree on Legislative Agenda

14 Jan, 2003 By: Holly J. Wagner

Representatives of the recording and technology industries today announced agreement on principles to guide their public policy activities in the 108th Congress regarding digital content distribution, but moviemaking interests snubbed the agreement because it includes a pledge not to seek new laws .

The policy issued by the Business Software Alliance (BSA), the Computer Systems Policy Project (CSPP) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), represents new common ground for the industries, which have been working to address piracy concerns while also seeking to embrace the digital age and meet consumer expectations.

"This is a landmark agreement because it shows that a broad cross-section of companies have come to the conclusion that government-mandated technology protection measures simply won't work. The technology industry - more than anyone - knows this,” said Robert Holleyman, president and CEO of the BSA. “Today's agreement shows that the companies that are hard-hit by Internet piracy understand this. With this agreement we stand committed to embracing technology and working together to find the best ways to harness technology's promise for consumers, creators and the entertainment industry."

The agreement promotes cross-industry coordination to raise consumer awareness of piracy issues, a unified consensus on how content creators should be able to use technology to protect their property and an agreement between the industries that government technical mandates are not the best way to serve the long term interests of consumers, record companies and the technology industry.

"This agreement represents a sea change in the debate over protecting digital content," said Ken Kay, executive director of CSPP. "These principles ensure the future of the digital age for consumers and should serve as the blueprint for collaboration on piracy issues between the content and technology industries. Through these principles, we can and will work together to provide digital distribution solutions that best protect content, consumer choice and innovation."

BSA, CSPP and RIAA agreed on seven principles to govern their activities for the 108th Congress. They call for the private sector to continue driving digital distribution and focusing on areas of agreement rather than divisive matters relating to government-dictated technology mandates.

The Motion Picture Association of America, which represents Hollywood studios and typically has worked hand in hand with RIAA on antipiracy efforts, did not sign on to the agreement. MPAA president and CEO Jack Valenti said the movie industry would not sign on to a pledge that rules out pressure for new laws.

“The film and music industries are separate, unique enterprises with different strategies for addressing the outstanding issues concerning digital copy protection. We are not prepared to abandon the option of seeking technical protection measures via the Congress or appropriate regulatory agency, when necessary, such as the adoption of the broadcast flag or closing the analog hole,” said Valenit,. “Designing ways to protect valuable creative works is very much in the long-term best interests of consumers and indispensable to the nourishment of our nation's economy. Because of this, we believe that no reasonable alternative course of action should be eliminated from consideration.”

To combat piracy, the cooperating industry groups will promote privately funded public awareness efforts and will approach Congress regarding any federal role. Both industries stated their support for private and federal enforcement against copyright infringers as well as unilateral technical protection measures and they agreed that legislation should not limit the effectiveness of such measures.

The industries also expressed support for actions by rights holders that could limit the illegal distribution of copyrighted works in ways that are not destructive to networks or products, or that violate consumers' privacy. The groups said they will continue to work together on technical measures that protect content and seek common ground in policy debates.

The associations promised to begin implementing the shared principles immediately. They also announced today their intention to convene a working committee of senior executives from their member companies to move specific activities forward in the coming months.

"The digital transformation of the music business is not coming, it is here. Now there are multiple ways for music fans to buy or subscribe to great legitimate music online. And consumers will enjoy even more new products in the coming years thanks to technological advances,” RIAA chairman and CEO Hilary Rosen said. "Our challenge in the public policy arena is to support that business development through enforcement, education and technical solutions that promote growth. This agreement keeps RIAA's focus on the tasks at hand and minimizes the distracting public rhetoric and needless legislative battles. It follows what I have always believed -– that our industries need to work together for the consumer to benefit and for our respective businesses to grow. Our responsibility is to seek common ground to foster that growth.”

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