This amazing bit of news was forwarded by Fred Benenson of Free Culture @ NYU. It’s amazing news and a critical development for the online music space. You can get more information at the RARA site and I’ve duplicated their message in full below without commentary:
From: Press Contact <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Mar 31, 2007 7:58 PM
Subject: MAJOR RECORD LABELS WITHDRAW FROM RIAA
MAJOR RECORD LABELS WITHDRAW FROM RIAA
Apple and Microsoft Help Launch RARA: Respect Artist, Respect Audience
April 1, 2007 (Hollywood, CA) – In a major break from the litigious and often alienating strategy pursued by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) against everyone from preteens to college students and grandmothers, the four major record labels have decided to drop all pending lawsuits and instead join with Apple and Microsoft to eliminate Digital Rights Management (DRM) from music sales. The companies are joining other personal electronics manufacturers and independent labels in a new organization, Respect the Artist, Respect the Audience (RARA).
Said a RARA spokesperson, “The major labels will no longer fight technology but embrace it. They realize selling high quality MP3 audio without DRM will give audiences the music they want in the format that want, and when fans purchase these tracks we will share a higher portion of royalties with the artist, because, lets face it, selling digital files over the net have a higher margin than CDs sold in a store.”
Sony/BMG, Warner Music, Vivendi Universal and EMI will join with Apple, Microsoft and other hardware manufacturers to develop policies and business models that will treat audiences with respect, rather than treating them like presumptive criminals as the companies have in recent history. Artists too will have a new place in RARA. The RIAA used the artist as a shield, claiming their actions were on the artists behalf while really benefiting the bottom labels’ bottom line, RARA will work to increase royalties paid to artists on digital music sales as well as make sure that artists who want to give their musics to fans have that right.
While the RIAA has not yet made a formal statement, all involved expect the organization to close its doors for good with its funding sources (membership fees) now going to RARA.
Many industry insiders were surprised by this move, but those involved say talks began earlier this year as it became increasingly obvious that competing DRM platforms in Microsoft’s Zune Marketplace and Apples iTunes Music store would be bad for artists, the audience, and the labels alike. Both Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Apple’s Steve Jobs came out publicly in opposition to DRM laying the groundwork for this stunning announcement.
It seemed like RARA was on shaky ground last month when EMI started to back away from plans to release DRM free music as Warner Bros considers a purchase, but ultimately, during closed door meetings, representatives from Apple, Microsoft, consumer rights groups in the US and EU as well as technology and software freedom organizations including the Free Software Foundation were able to convince the labels that their best hope of turning around flagging music sales and reducing unauthorized file sharing was to embrace the digital future and drop DRM.
“It scary as hell to guys like us that have been making a living — a damn good one — by selling shiny plastic disks for $18.99 in WalMart and on Amazon,” Said Warner’s Senior Vice President for Digital Sales and Marketing, Larry Mattera, “but damn, my kid is swapping songs and I can’t even stop HIM! I realized the truth in the age old adage ‘If You can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ and you know, the cassette tape didn’t kill us, the CDR didn’t either, we just got get up off our asses and figure out a better product to sell to people!”
Reached for comment in New Zealand, U2 front man and international do-gooder Bono, who had been the target of a campaign to end DRM, DefectiveByDesign.org said only, “It is a truly as great day for artists who, like U2, will be able to mashup bits from our collective commons to make new works that will inspire and please audiences today and in the future.”
While Apple has until recently enjoyed unchallenged dominance in the digital music ecology with its popular brand of iPod digital music players and iTunes Music Store, regulators in European have sought to force Apple to open its DRM scheme, Steve Jobs remarked, “Dropping the whole thing is way easier than trying to keep it secure and sharing it. Now, without the expense of maintaining that DRM, we’ll be able to work on developing better digital music products that are open and universally accessible.”
Learn More at http://www.ArtistAudience.org
If you made it this far then you are either very dedicated or you missed the date.