RIAA Chief Offers Pro-DRM, Pro-Litigation Message

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Despite heavy industry losses, RIAA chairman and chief executive Mitch Bainwol sounded a pro-DRM and pro-litigation message on Tuesday.

During a keynote at the Digital Summit in Nashville, Bainwol firmly backed a controversial litigation approach, and defended the use of digital protections in the marketplace.  The chief executive acknowledged that major labels are now experiencing the “lowest sales in the history of Soundscan,” though Bainwol appeared optimistic and strongly committed to existing strategies.  “I believe in rules,” Bainwol flatly stated. “They are essential to the American way of life.”

Applying that philosophy to a current campaign against university-based infringement, Bainwol noted that “universities are supposed to be the defenders of intellectual thought,” and lamented that “students are learning exactly the wrong lesson”.  Earlier this year, the RIAA intensified actions against students across a broad number of schools, and offered less expensive, pre-litigation options.  According to Bainwol, the strategy is “changing the risk calculus,” and  the lobbyist pointed to “early evidence that universities are focused on the issue”.

On the DRM front, Bainwol echoed pro-protection sentiments expressed by a number of  leading major label executives. The matter has now taken center stage following a DRM-free shift by EMI, a plan that will first greet the market next month via an iTunes exclusive.  “DRM serves all sorts of pro-consumer purposes,” Bainwol asserted.  Addressing the continued interoperability mess, Bainwol noted that “cross-licensing DRM is the way to solve the issue,” a not-so-subtle jab at Apple and its closed, FairPlay protection system.  But despite the ardent support for DRM, Bainwol left the door open on other possibilities.  “If it supercharges the sales of music, then we’ll learn,” Bainwol said, while pointing to a “prudent, rational judgment on how to proceed on DRM” over the next few months.

Story by editor Paul Resnikoff, on location in Nashville, TN.