Independent Labels Distance Themselves from RIAA Policy

In the digital climate of 2006, the Internet has boosted awareness for alternative media. Independent labels now aim to make themselves distinct and different than labels associated with the CRIA, the RIAA, BPI, etc.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

Once again, the Internet would prove to be a handy tool to get their messages across.

Sony-BMG may prove to be a turning point when it comes to attitudes regarding DRM (Digital Rights Management). Since the Rootkit fiasco and the MediaMax technology controversy, awareness surrounding DRM has attained new heights. The results would prove disappointing for those hoping physical CDs would still earn soaring profits in 2006. Thanks to these actions, some technologically aware consumers have blanketed all portable media – namely CDs and DVDs – as security risks.

This development has aroused serious concerns for the music labels. Not all music labels are associated with large media corporations like Sony and Time Warner. Independent labels have taken a new stance and have become more vocal lately – increasing their distance from things such as the RIAA lawsuits and DRM technology on CDs.

One of the earliest well-known movements occurred when Fading Ways Music utilized Creative Commons licensed music. It would prove to be the first well-known pro-user movement by any label.

Later on, during a Canadian Election campaign, Sam Bulte, a candidate who later lost her seat, advocated tightened copyright laws. Fundraising controversies aside, she was backed by The Creator’s Copyright Coalition. She Said Boom, an Independent music store, was reported to answer to Bulte’s remarks with the words ‘Get bent!

In a much more dramatic move, Nettwerk, a Canadian label said they would fund the defense of an individual facing RIAA litigation. The defendant was allegedly sharing music signed under Nettwerk’s lable.

Recently, another movement has taken place. VUT, the German Association for Independent Labels launched the Respect the Music – Copy Protection Free campaign. The website states,

“This campaign has three clear statements to make:

DRM and copy protection are not the answer to the problems of the music industry. They cause wariness in consumers which in turn drives them to piracy.

We need strong yet consumer-friendly copyright laws that support the new digital forms of music distribution and create a basis for modern compensation models. The amended laws must create fair terms for the creative industry and therefore require thorough revision.

the legal persecution of P2P users turns fans into criminals and does not solve the problem of piracy.”

The campaign goes further, ” From this day on this website will provide continuous information on the position of the independent scene concerning topics such as copy protection/DRM, new forms of distributing music, as well as copyright law.

The use of copy protection devices punishes the honest fan instead of rewarding him, which is why most indies do not use copy protection.

The “Copy Protection Free” logo, designed by !K7 and in use since in 2004, can be downloaded here and printed on releases by every label that supports “Respect The Music”. It’s about time that the independent music business and its artists respond to the misguided policies of the music industry.”

The growth of these movements is a strong indication that many independent labels disagree with the highly publicized policies of the major music labels. While the major trade organizations rally behind strengthened copyright controls or DRM, the indies are taking a step back and listening to their customers.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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