Group Claims RIAA Does Not Speak for All Musicians

The Recording Industry Association of America has recently been getting press ink by the bucketful for its defense of the music business against the perils of the Internet. But the Future of Music Coalition is urging the US Copyright Office to be wary of efforts by the RIAA to establish itself as the sole and exclusive collection agent for digital performance royalties for sound recordings. Instead, the Coalition has proposed that an independent body would be a more appropriate vehicle to collect and distribute these and other monies, including Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 royalties.

The FMC's executive director, Jenny Toomey, explains that "I've known and respected John Simson [leader of the RIAA effort] for a long time. I'm sure he has the best intentions at heart. Given the inherent conflicts in trying to represent competing interests, however, we simply do not see how the RIAA could be successful in simultaneously representing artists and independent labels at the same time it is a trade organization for the major record labels. We have already been contacted by artists and smaller labels who have expressed concern about a proposed government policy that could concentrate extraordinary power in one sector of the private economy. The RIAA is not the entire music industry, it is funded by and solely represents the interests of the five major record labels."

The Future of Music Coalition says that it supports the concept of a third-party collective that would be entrusted with the task of collecting Digital Performance Royalties for Sound Recordings and other monies for parties other than the five major recording labels. This would include independent record labels and recording artists who sell directly to fans, in addition to performers who own their own master recordings.

A position statement released by the group asserts that "by encouraging the creation of such an organization, the Future of Music Coalition maintains that the interests of all stakeholders, including the RIAA and the five major record labels, will be protected in the ongoing digital music distribution debate." The FMC's Walter F. McDonough adds that "we propose the establishment of a system that will include independent arbitration for dispute resolution, democratic voting procedures for all members, open and transparent accounting and payment systems, inclusive board membership, and a technologically advanced tracking system that will provide the most accurate database for royalty payment."

In order to realize these policy initiatives, the FMC says it will continue its research and discussions with leading figures from the music, technology, law, and business communities. According to the group, these and other issues will be addressed at the upcoming Future of Music Conference, January 10 and 11, 2001 in Washington, DC.