Mitch Bainwol, CEO and chairman of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), is in advanced talks to head up an auto-industry trade group, CNET learned this evening.
Bainwol, who has steered the RIAA, the trade organization representing the four largest music-recording companies, since 2003 was recently approached about running the a similar job working , according to multiple music-industry sources. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents BMW, Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors, has approached Bainwol about running that organization.
An RIAA spokesman declined to comment.
Bainwol has not accepted the position, but the talks have progressed far enough to prompt Bainwol to inform the RIAA's board that he could depart soon, the sources said. The news comes as something of a surprise, considering that the RIAA has seen some recent high-profile successes.
The trade group, along with the Motion Picture Association of America, this month saw some of the country's largest Internet service providers, including Verizon and Comcast, agree to help discourage their subscribers from pirating of music and movies (the news was first reported by CNET). In extreme cases, where a subscriber repeatedly refuses to stop sharing copyright content online, the ISPs have even agreed to block the accused person's access to the Web. The RIAA and MPAA lobbied ISPs for at least three years and the adoption of a so-called graduated response to illegal file sharing by the ISPs was seen as crucial for both trade groups.
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The RIAA won a big copyright case against LimeWire, at one time one of the most popular peer-to-peer services for pirating music, and was successful at getting the network taken offline and winning a $105 million settlement from LimeWire's creator. The RIAA played a large role in winning support from Congress and the White House for greater copyright protections. The Protect IP Act, a bill introduced into the Senate this year, is designed to hand the government increased powers to block access to sites allegedly trafficking in pirate or counterfeit goods.
In the tech community, Bainwol is mainly known as a foe of file sharers and proponents of free content. Although the litigation campaign directed at individual file sharers was launched by the RIAA in 2003, it was designed by Bainwol's predecessor, Hilary Rosen. Nonetheless, Bainwol pursued the strategy, which was considered by many to be ineffectual at discouraging the practice of obtaining unauthorized copies of songs from illegal file-sharing services, such as LimeWire.
If Bainwol does leave, a likely candidate to replace him would be Cary Sherman, who is the RIAA's president. Sherman was instrumental in helping the RIAA push through the ISP agreement on graduated response, said a music industry insider.
Update: July 29, 2011 6:04 p.m.: To include update on which trade organization is pursuing Bainwol, reported Friday by the blog Politco.