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Cara Duckworth, Hilary Rosen, Elizabeth Birch

A look at three women who've shaped the digital world around us.


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Two landmark rulings came down in US courts recently. In the one case the RIAA were found to not be abusive in persecuting individual file sharers; in the other the RIAA were awarded $1.92 million in damages for copies of 24 songs.

Behind these rulings are three women: Cara Duckworth, Hilary Rosen, and Elizabeth Birch.

Nancy Gertner

There's a fourth woman involved. Nancy Gertner. She's the one responsible for slamming down Nesson's argument in the Tanenbaum case that the RIAA are engaged in an 'abuse of process'.

Gertner rejected Tenenbaum's argument that the record industry's lawsuits to stop parties downloading and distributing copyrighted works is an 'abuse of process' simply because the campaign has spawned a large number of cases against young people who cannot afford attorneys.

Abuse of process, as the cause of action is defined, does not turn on the identity of the defendants, their ability to hire an attorney, nor their inclination to settle the claims against them. Congress has handed the Plaintiffs a massive hammer to combat copyright infringement, and they have chosen to use it. That choice, whether wise or unwise, does not amount to an abuse of process.
 - Nancy Gertner

In the related Jammie Thomas-Rasset case where the defendant was ordered to pay the RIAA $1.92 million for allegedly downloading 24 songs, RIAA spokeswoman Cara Duckworth was quoted as follows on the jury's verdict.

Since Day One we have been willing to settle this case and we remain willing to do so.
 - Cara Duckworth

Duckworth says she's still willing to consider $3000-$5000 per song. With the verdict now in, the objective has been reached: to scare the citizenry into submission.

So who is this Cara Duckworth? Don Reisinger says he knows. A reporter for CNET, Reisinger has worked intensively at researching what the RIAA have been up to. On 15 January 2008 he published 'An Interview with the Misguided RIAA'.

You'll notice that none of the quotes from the previous column were taken out of context because, well, first and foremost, I didn't need to - this organization speaks for itself. You'll also notice that the RIAA really is all of those things most people believe they are. Of course, don't necessarily tell them that, because they won't believe it.

The article isn't so much an interview with the entire RIAA as it's an interview exclusively with Cara Duckworth.

College students have reached a stage in life when their music habits are crystallized and their appreciation for intellectual property has not yet reached its full development.
 - Cara Duckworth

Sadly, this statement tells you everything you need to know about the RIAA. Does this organization actually believe that people who have the right to vote and go to war don't have the ability to make sound decisions about intellectual property? Maybe it has nothing to do with lack of development and everything to do with an extreme distaste for the recording industry.
 - Don Reisinger

Another of Reisinger's beefs with Duckworth and company is that the statistics they're always coming up with showing losses for the record companies aren't the work of individual file sharers: they're the work of the organised criminal counterfeiters. Yet Duckworth and company don't go after the big fish - they instead attack the minnows. Sometimes for $1.92 million a pop.

There's no way they're ever going to get that. I'm a mom, limited means, so I'm not going to worry about it now.
 - Jammie Thomas-Rasset

But JTR will have to worry about it. She'll have to declare personal bankruptcy and that's a lot to worry about.

But Cara Duckworth is merely a spokeswoman - a pawn. She's not a policy maker. She's not one of the (few) movers and shakers who've worked behind the scenes for years to bring the Big Brother surveillance society closer to us than ever before.

Who are the people who've made the world we live in so ugly? Certainly there are many but above all - especially in this case of copyrighted music - there are two.

Hilary Rosen and Elizabeth Birch. Hilary and Elizabeth have been partners. And together are responsible for the rearing of twin children. They went their separate ways back in 2006.

Hilary Rosen

Rosen was at RIAA during the most turbulent and disruptive times in the music industry. She was a major lobbying force on Capitol Hill and a regular presence on behalf of the industry in the media. She raised RIAA's profile from a little known trade group to the most visible and influential music industry voice in Washington and around the country. Her longtime close relationship with Democratic members of Congress led to the passage of several pieces of legislation during her tenure. While the business models were under development by the record labels, RIAA advanced a legal and PR campaign to limit the digital file swapping of copyrighted music, a practice whose popularity increased dramatically with improved personal computer multimedia capabilities and expanded broadband Internet access. During her tenure, the RIAA achieved a number of legal victories in the United States, including:

  • The dismantling of the Napster and Audiogalaxy Internet file-trading services. Rosen has publicly expressed regret at the result of the Napster litigation. Not from a legal perspective, which she defended, but for the way it limited the debate over online music.
  • Passage of the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
  • Initiating the Grokster lawsuit on which the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the record industry.
  • Passage of the Performance Rights Act creating a public performance right for the first time for sound recordings.
  • Passage of the Record Rental Act providing additional rental protection for sound recordings.
  • Passage of numerous trade treaties providing increased protection for US intellectual property abroad.

[Keep in mind that there is not yet a single case where 'artists' whose rights have been infringed on have received recompense for all the damages awarded and other revenue streams accruing to the RIAA and their legal representatives - they keep all the cash they acquire. All of it.]

Rosen also launched initiatives to encourage industry-wide standards of new digital copyright protection technologies including copy protected CDs and a number of digital rights management enabled media formats for personal computers. Copy-protected CDs have not been popular with consumers because they cannot be played in most car CD players or on PCs and only a few pilot titles were ever distributed with the technology.

Rosen left RIAA before the start of a controversial program to sue individuals for file swapping. Despite the RIAA's aggressive tactics, online file-swapping has continued to grow. Industry critics, including those within the association, have begun to question the effectiveness of the campaign. Indeed, many believe that the RIAA's activities alienated consumers and some popular artists from the very music industry the RIAA is supposed to protect.

Talk about wild theories.

On 22 January 2003 Rosen announced she would resign as head of the RIAA at the end of 2003 in order to spend more time with her partner Elizabeth Birch and the couple's twins (a boy and a girl).

She began a television commentator career first with CNBC and then with MSNBC. She signed with CNN in April 2008. Rosen and Birch separated in 2006.

Romantic impulses can be so fickle.

Elizabeth Birch

As an American gay and lesbian rights (LGBT) activist Birch grew the organisation dramatically in both membership and budget. In 2003 the organisation opened its national headquarters building in Washington DC. Birch was executive director of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) until January 2004 when she left to spend more time with her then-partner Hilary Rosen and their children.

Birch was worldwide director of litigation for Apple Computer and general counsel for the Claris subsidiary.

In 2004 Birch launched Birch & Company with offices in Washington DC and New York. Birch runs Rosie O'Donnell's production company KidRo Productions Inc.

For the 6,787,551,802+ people on this planet the spectre - the threat - of the approaching Big Brother surveillance society grows. And it's actually shaped and manipulated - perverted - by an extremely small number of extraordinarily quirky people almost none of the 6,787,551,802+ know even exist.

See Also
Wikipedia: Hilary Rosen | Wikipedia: Elizabeth Birch
CNET/Don Reisinger: The RIAA speaks - and it gets worse
CNET/Don Reisinger: An interview with the misguided RIAA
Ars/Nate Anderson: Thomas-Rasset verdict: $1.92 million penalty
IT Blogwatch: RIAA/Capitol vs Thomas-Rasset: $1.92 m P2P damages!

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