Early in my Senate tenure, I met with recording industry representatives to discuss how the Internet was fundamentally changing their business. I argued that it provided an extraordinary opportunity to reinvent the music business by creating new mechanisms for distribution, branding, and monetization. But my advice didn’t get very far. At that moment, their only preoccupation was with illegal downloading. Fresh off a court victory over Napster, they felt sure they held a winning hand.
Over the next five years the recording industry filed 35,000 cases against consumers for violating copyright by illegally downloading music. Industry representatives claimed that this “education campaign” was successful, but the resulting PR was ugly. The dragnet of court filings swept up grandmothers, 12-year-olds, and the deceased, while the growth of illegal file sharing continued unabated.