Hilary Rosen, head of the Powerful Trade Organization for the $15 billion recording industry, is full of contrasts: She can be funny and charming, but criticize the actions of her organization and her face hardens.
If Rosen has some rough edges, its not surprising, given the difficult task of leading her industry through the perils of the Internet revolution. So far, her strategy has been to fight aggressively to control Internet distribution channels through new legislation, standards for copyright protection technology and aggressive litigation.
This year will bring legal decisions that may affect the RIAAs strategy: First, a decision from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in the Napster case will help determine the boundaries of copyright law for technologies like file-swapping. Also expected is a ruling from the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals on the DVD case in which a Web site was forbidden to post or link to software that decrypts DVDs. Although that suit came from the movie industry, the RIAA has a stake in it, as the case may determine its ability to protect music distribution through encryption.
Rosen was instrumental in pushing through the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, which makes it illegal to distribute the means to circumvent copyright protection technology, the grounds for the DVD case. Now, the DMCA is being assailed by critics for violating consumers First Amendment rights and giving too much control to the record companies.
Rosen also spearheaded the ongoing Secure Digital Music Initiative, an Internet music industry effort to develop standards for secure distribution. Under her leadership, SDMI brought the RIAA members together with digital media and technology companies. Despite little forward movement, the RIAA still sees encryption as a key part of their Internet strategy, so SDMI is continuing its efforts.