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RIAA Hires New Chief

The Recording Industry Association of America, the trade organization that represents recording artists, labels, manufacturers and distributors, announced yesterday that Mitch Bainwol would replace Hilary Rosen as chairman and CEO of the organization. Bainwol, a former chief of staff to current Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, will assume his new duty on September 1st.

Bainwol has no prior experience working in the music industry and will have his work cut out for him. The recording industry has been mired in a monstrous three-year sales slump, and in late June the RIAA announced that it would be targeting individual computer users who share music through peer-to-peer networks, a decision that wasn’t popular with music fans. Recent reports estimate that nearly 1,000 subpoenas had been granted to the RIAA to identify illegal file-sharers through various Internet services. Bainwol’s congressional connections (he was also the former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee) are expected to be an asset in pushing through legislation that could aid in the fight against digital piracy.

The RIAA selected Bainwol six months after Rosen announced that she was leaving the organization. Rosen had worked for the RIAA for seventeen years and headed it for the past five. She was instrumental in the RIAA’s decision to do legal battle with Napster, one of the early music-swapping software makers. The RIAA hauled Napster into court in 2000, and the company was bankrupted a year later. But despite Napster’s temporary demise (it plans to return later this year as a pay-for-play service) domestic music piracy continued, prompting the new legal action against individual users, who could be hit with penalties of up to $150,000 for song downloaded. Rosen announced her retirement following the Napster victory but before the organization’s legal tangles expanded to include consumers. “I don’t think that legal action is a solution,” she told Rolling Stone in the fall of 2000. “Litigation has always been my least favorite route.”

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