IT, Music Recording Industries Team Up

The two industries unite against anti-piracy mandates.

Setting aside their differences over how to combat online content piracy, the IT and music recording industries united Tuesday to address the problem cooperatively rather than go to Congress for a solution. While the two industries retain some differences in approach, they agreed to ward off efforts by lawmakers to mandate technical protections.

The music and film business has been at loggerheads with computer and software makers in recent years as policy-makers sought a balance between consumer rights and content owner rights in the digital realm. During the last session of Congress, several members introduced bills to address the problem of online piracy in different ways, but the matter was too divisive to resolve.

"Much of the legislative activity in the last few years has been a distraction," Ken Kay, executive director of the Computer Systems Policy Project in Washington, said at a press conference in Washington Tuesday. "We need to avoid divisive legislative battles." CSPP members include Dell Computer Corp., Intel Corp, Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM, Motorola Inc., Unisys Corp., NCR Corp. and EMC Corp.

At the invitation of the Recording Industry Association of America, the CSPP and the Business Software Alliance agreed to a set of principles to improve the debate this year. Together, the two industries will support private sector technical measures to limit illegal distribution of copyrighted works, and they will oppose legislative measures that would limit technical protections. They also agreed that technical measures should be reasonable and not destructive to networks, equipment or individual privacy rights.

The RIAA views the agreement as a demonstration that the IT industry is an ally in its efforts to enforce existing anti-piracy laws as well, said Hilary Rosen, chairman and CEO of the RIAA. However, according to Kay, it does not necessarily mean that the IT industry will play a more active role in investigating and prosecuting individual instances of digital piracy.

The RIAA is involved in several enforcement actions, including cases against the Kazaa system, Rosen said, adding that the U.S. Department of Justice is also "looking at things." The groups will look to Congress for more resources to enforce existing laws and to help educate the public, she said.

Other agreed-upon principles include: promoting public awareness and improving the dialogue about digital rights and allowing the marketplace, rather than legislators, to drive decisions about satisfying consumer expectations.

Robert Holleyman, president and CEO of the BSA, said he believes the agreement will help foster the availability of more digital products. The IT industry loses $11 billion a year to digital piracy, he said.

Conspicuously absent from the agreement are several vocal elements in the digital piracy debate, including consumer advocates, the Motion Picture Association of America and electronics manufacturers.