Five Questions with Mitch Glazier, President of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)

Mitch Glazier

This week we would like you to meet Mitch Glazier, President of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

1. Explain what your organization does and your role within the organization.

The RIAA is the trade organization that supports and promotes the creative and financial vitality of the major U.S. music labels and their subsidiaries, including Capitol Records, RCA, Columbia, Motown, Atlantic, Warner Bros and others. These labels comprise the most vibrant record industry in the world, investing in great artists to help them reach their potential and connect to their fans.

My job as President is to make sure the trains keep running in a myriad of ways, from connecting and collaborating with like-minded organizations on initiatives that help promote, preserve, and advance our industries to overseeing our advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill and with the Administration to showcasing all we do as a creative industry. Tha’s all high-level speak for “I’m tired a lot ” but i’s a fun gig and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

2. What is your (and your organization’s) interest in copyright law? How does your organization and/or its constituents rely on copyright law to support their livelihoods?

Because the creation, production and distribution of sound recordings is governed by copyright law, we care about making sure that law does what it was intended to do – protect the work of U.S. creators and incentivize others to create music.

3. If there was one thing that you wished the public understood about copyright, what would it be?

I’s the reason why U.S. creators are the best in the world, and recordings made in the U.S. are the most popular in the world. It fosters the creative process – you have an idea for a song that you might want to put into motion one day and perhaps put it out into the world and maybe try to make a little money from it? Try to make a career out of it? Same with any creative outlet. THAT is where copyright comes in. I almost want it to be called something like “creators’ rights ” or “creative protection ” since i’s meant to nurture an idea, from seed to tree, and get you paid for it. No one can take that work from you, thanks to copyright. I’s a fundamental tenet of both the free market and culture. And it touches everything we do as a society.

4. What is your organization’s biggest copyright-related challenge?

We have a lot of challenges! I’s hard to just pick one. First, the value gap. There are a lot of behemoth corporations who would much rather undermine creators’ rights in order to boost their own profits. For these corporations, the value of the entire U.S. recorded music industry is but a rounding error on their financial books, and yet music is such a valuable part of their consumer offering, if not the most valuable part. Of course I’m talking about companies like Google and its YouTube video service, but also many others. YouTube takes advantage of a quirk in U.S. copyright law that says passive, neutral intermediaries that distribute content can’t get in trouble for something illegal that its users post to its platform. But in this day and age when it actively recommends videos to users and plays with its own algorithm, i’s getting harder and harder for them to make the argument that i’s still a passive, neutral intermediary that should derive that benefit of protection under U.S. copyright law. Meanwhile, it underpays music creators who fuel the video platform because of this benefit of protection. I’s a massive blow to creators and severely devalues their work. Tha’s not the intent of copyright law. We have to find solutions that respect music creators and get them paid while recognizing the importance of platforms like YouTube to creators and users.

Second, there is no federal protection of pre-’72 sound recordings. Sound recordings were brought under federal protection in 1972. What does that mean? It means legacy artists – those who recorded music before 1972 – aren’t paid for that work when i’s played on digital radio services like SiriusXM. Tha’s truly unfair when you think that these artists are likely the ones who need it the most and who paved the way for future icons with unique sounds and ground-breaking musical styles. Where would we be without them? I’s an injustice that needs to change.

5. If there was one aspect of copyright law that you could change, what would that be and how would you change it?

I think it would be that so-called “safe harbor ” quirk in copyright law that allows massive distribution companies to take advantage of creators. I would make clear who i’s intended to protect.

And of course, I would either bring pre-’72 recordings under federal protection or would somehow require digital radio services like SiriusXM as part of their consumer offerings to pay pre-’72 artists for the privilege of playing their music. I’s the right thing to do.

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