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Music sharing and the Internet

Fred Reed’s article “Illegal music sharing the norm” (Business, July 28) is long on criticisms but short on solutions.

No doubt, the Internet is an extraordinary tool that helps us experience, learn and communicate in ways that we could never have imagined just a few short years ago. Digital distribution platforms are the music industry’s future. But no industry, including ours, can flourish if the same property rights that we defend in the physical world are somehow eviscerated in the digital age. Doing the right thing does not always mean doing the easy thing — just because the Internet makes the theft of creative works easy does not make it legal or right.

Mr. Reed compared efforts to fight piracy to the war on drugs. An interesting comparison, but nonetheless valuable — just because illegal narcotics are available does not make their use appropriate.

We recognize that there is no silver bullet to “solving” piracy. We will never eradicate online theft or convince every clever teenager to enjoy his or her music the right way. But just because there is no perfect answer does not mean we should abandon meaningful approaches that do make a difference. We cannot and will not sit idly by as an entire community of creators has its work looted.

Our job is to provide a strong foundation for the legal marketplace to thrive while raising awareness of the law. Our responsibility is to help protect the future foundation of the digital landscape, no matter how it evolves. Containment of what was formerly a hemorrhaging problem is progress. Within the past few years, as broadband penetration has grown exponentially, illicit peer-to-peer (P2P) music trading, formerly growing at astronomic levels, has demonstrated only modest growth. Imagine what the digital music landscape would look like had we done nothing, as Mr. Reed essentially suggests? The very promising traction that the legal marketplace has shown so far would have been suffocated in a continuing avalanche of illegal music trafficking.

Do we have work to do to engage today’s children about why it’s important to respect intellectual property? Absolutely. Before we undertook these deterrence and education campaigns, a whole generation was growing up believing that it was OK to steal. That’s no longer the case. Now there is a broad understanding of the law and what you can and can’t do on the Internet. That happens because we have a multifaceted approach that includes not only deterrence but educational programs involving students of all ages and vigorous promotion of all the exciting digital services that the record companies have partnered with to offer fans a hassle-free experience. We’re not naive about the continuing challenges the industry faces, but we are bullish about the future and about the impact of our efforts so far.

Finally, as stalwart defenders of the First Amendment, we welcome all constructive criticism. But Mr. Reed criticizes without offering any alternative strategy. We can’t afford that approach; we need to do all we can with the tools we can to make the marketplace work for fans and creators. We think we’re on the right track.

CARA DUCKWORTH

Director of communications

Recording Industry Association

of America

Washington

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