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Key Music Industry Crusader to Resign

Hilary Rosen will quit as head of the Recording Industry Assn. of America at year's end.

January 23, 2003|Chuck Philips and Jeff Leeds | Times Staff Writers

Hilary Rosen, one of Washington's most powerful lobbyists, said she would resign as head of the music industry's main trade group.

The move, announced Wednesday, comes at a time when the shrinking music business is beset by plunging profits and surging piracy. It also marks the latest executive shake-up in an industry still reeling from Thomas D. Mottola's recent departure as head of Sony's music arm.

Rosen said she would leave her post as head of the Recording Industry Assn. of America at year's end. The veteran lobbyist, who had spoken of resigning for some time, said she was quitting to spend time with her family.

As chairwoman and chief executive of the RIAA, Rosen was respected by her peers and the companies that employed her. She also was known as a bare-knuckles fighter in the music labels' multi-front battles with pirates, slippery new technologies and, sometimes, the industry's own artists.

Rosen became a household name three years ago after the RIAA filed multimillion-dollar lawsuits against MP3.com and Napster Inc., accusing both companies of violating copyright laws by encouraging their Web site users to steal music with new digital technologies. As a result, she often was portrayed by the tech community as the evil overlord of the music industry.

At the same time, Rosen earned a reputation as a free-speech advocate after numerous battles with congressional leaders who sought to censor music lyrics.

But she and her group caused a furor in 1999 by quietly tacking onto a telecommunications bill an amendment that secured labels' ownership of master recordings. The move outraged artists, who prompted Congress to pass a repeal.

In 2001, critics accused the trade group of grafting onto an anti-terrorism bill a provision that would have given labels more leeway in reaching into consumers' Internet-connected computers. That provision ultimately was killed.

The RIAA represents the five major record companies: Sony Corp.'s Sony Music Entertainment, Vivendi Universal's Universal Music Group, AOL Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Music Group, Bertelsmann's BMG division and EMI Group -- all of which are in economic turmoil.

"I love this job, but I want to be with my kids," Rosen said Wednesday. "Every time I get ready to go off on a business trip, I hear them asking me not to go."

A 17-year employee of the RIAA, Rosen was named CEO in 1998. She has presided over the organization during a period of drastically declining sales, which the group has blamed on illegal downloading by users of Napster and successors such as Kazaa. In the last two years, global music sales have sunk more than 15%.

Not long after the battle over Internet piracy began, Rosen privately began telling friends that she wanted to quit for the sake of her 4-year-old twins. Rosen renewed her contract in April 2001 but told the RIAA board then that she intended to leave in 2003.

Six weeks ago, Rosen's domestic partner, Elizabeth Birch, announced that she was going to leave her post as executive director of the Human Rights Campaign.

Rosen, who earns about $1 million annually as head of the RIAA, started her career as a Washington lobbyist representing songwriters. After joining the RIAA, she often took public whippings for the record industry.

But she said she had no regrets about her job and no plans to seek another post.

"The truth is that I have loved almost all of it -- even at the height of the public antipathy," Rosen said. "For me, the most frustrating part is that everybody in this business is working harder than ever -- and yet because of piracy, fewer artists get signed now and good people are losing their jobs. It's sad."

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