RIAA Chief Steps Down

Mitch Bainwol, who oversaw the Recording Industry Association of America's campaign against illegal music downloading, including lawsuits against individual file sharers and a Supreme Court case resulting in the closure of Grokster, has left the organization.

Bainwol, who has served as CEO of the RIAA since 2003, has become CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a lobbying group representing car makers. Former RIAA president Cary Sherman will take over the top post at the association.

Under Bainwol's leadership, the RIAA aggressively pursued people who shared digital music, as well as technology companies that enabled music sharing. In a closely watched action, the RIAA sued Grokster and the case made it to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court sided with the RIAA, allowing it to sue other companies like Grokster that enabled file sharing. Grokster shut down shortly afterward and agreed to settle with the RIAA for US$50 million.

The RIAA similarly pursued another popular file-sharing site, LimeWire, at one time asking the court to order LimeWire to pay trillions of dollars in compensation.

Under Bainwol the RIAA also executed an unpopular strategy of suing individuals for millions of dollars, and while it has largely abandoned that strategy, a few cases continue to work their way through the courts.

Sherman, himself an attorney, sounds poised to follow in Bainwol's footsteps. "Setting the legislative agenda at both national and state levels, working to protect and promote intellectual property in the U.S. and throughout the world, coordinating with law enforcement on both physical and digital theft, and representing the industry in negotiations and before government tribunals to empower new business models and standards -- all of these are vital functions and I look forward to taking them on," he said in a statement.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com.

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