A column in the Boston Globe today by former Republican Senator from New Hampshire John E. Sununu supporting fair use.

By John E. Sununu

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.

None of this is to condone illegal downloading. But unfortunately, the combination of digital storage and Internet connectivity makes the unlicensed copying and distribution of music a fact of modern life. The question for music executives was obvious: How could they best deploy resources to create new business opportunities in the digital age? They chose a foolish and expensive path. By pursuing the fantasy of a legal victory over all copyright infringement, they ceded the field of digital innovation to firms like Apple, YouTube, Pandora, and Spotify. By 2008, the industry had enough, conceding publicly that it would no longer aggressively sue students. Read more.