Today, Recording Industry Association of America CEO Mitch Bainwol testified at a House Commerce and Energy Committee hearing on the subject of net neutrality. That he didn't outright dismiss measures meant to protect the open internet shows just how much this debate has evolved.
The RIAA still says combating piracy remains a top priority , as do other content creators and producers who support net neutrality. Bainwol's testimony also included language praising aspects of the pro-net neutrality bill introduced by Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) last February.
"Chairman Markey and Congressman Pickering have properly recognized the important distinction between lawful and unlawful content, and we applaud them for making this distinction," Bainwol said.
That might not seem like much, but it does show some forward thinking. The major labels need new business models and services to help them sell more digital music. Net neutrality ensures that innovation of this kind can continue to flower on the web.
It's important to note that net neutrality and protecting copyright are not at odds, as Rep. Markey explained. "This whole idea that this legislation helps piracy is 100 percent wrong," he said. "It's a red herring. We should put an aquarium out here because there are so many red herrings floating around to mislead about what the intent of net neutrality is."
Net neutrality preserves the public’s access to lawful content, applications and online services, which gives network operators latitude to combat illegal filesharing. It also ensures access to the digital marketplace for everyone, and not just big companies that can afford to pay a toll to the network operators.
Bainwol says he'd like the "marketplace to decide" the best methods for fighting illegal filesharing. Without legislation establishing clear guidelines for what's appropriate network management activity, the telecom and cable companies could start discriminating against content they didn't like or authorized content that competes against their own offerings. If this happened, even the major labels could be affected.
Musicians should make their voices heard on this important issue. If you haven't already, sign up for FMC's Rock the Net campaign and join bands like Pearl Jam, R.E.M., Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, Bright Eyes and Kronos Quartet in supporting net neutrality.