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Recording Industry Association of America

Recording Industry Association of America

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is a trade organization that represents the recording industry in the United States. Its members consist of record labels and distributors, which the RIAA says "create, manufacture and/or distribute approximately 85% of all legally sold recorded music in the United States."[1] The RIAA headquarters is in Washington, D.C.[2][3]

The RIAA was formed in 1952.[4] Its original mission was to administer recording copyright fees and problems, work with trade unions, and do research relating to the record industry and government regulations.[5] Early RIAA standards included the RIAA equalization curve,[6] the format of the stereophonic record groove and the dimensions of 33 1/3 rpm, 45 rpm, and 78 rpm records.[7]

The RIAA says its current mission includes:[1]

  1. to protect intellectual property rights and the First Amendment rights of artists;

  2. to perform research about the music industry;

  3. to monitor and review relevant laws, regulations and policies.

Since 2001, the RIAA has spent upwards of six million dollars annually on lobbying in the United States.[8] The RIAA also participates in the collective rights management of sound recordings, and it is responsible for certifying Gold and Platinum albums and singles in the United States.

Recording Industry Association of America
Motto"Representing Music"
Formation1952 (1952)
TypeLicensing and royalties, technical standards
HeadquartersWashington, D.C., U.S.
  • United States
Chairman and CEO
Cary Sherman
Websiteriaa.com [63]

Company structure and sales

Cary Sherman has been the RIAA's chairman and CEO since 2011. Sherman joined the RIAA as its general counsel in 1997 and became president of the board of directors in 2001, serving in that position until being made chairman and CEO.

Mitch Glazier has been the RIAA's senior executive vice president since 2011. He served as executive vice president for public policy and industry relations from 2000 to 2011.

Mitch Bainwol served as CEO from 2003 to 2011. He left in 2011 to become president and CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

The 20-member board of directors is composed of the following record executives:[9]

  • Cary Sherman (Recording Industry Association of America)

  • Michele Anthony (Universal Music Group)

  • Glen Barros (Concord Music Group)

  • Michael L. Nash (Universal Music Group)

  • Eric Berman (Universal Music Group)

  • David Bither (Nonesuch Records)

  • Ken Bunt (Disney Music Group)

  • John Esposito (Warner Music Nashville)

  • Peter Gray (Warner Bros. Records)

  • Jeff Harleston (Universal Music Group)

  • Terry Hemmings (Provident Music Group/Sony Music Entertainment)

  • Craig Kallman (The Atlantic Group)

  • Kevin Kelleher (Sony Music Entertainment)

  • Dennis Kooker (Sony Music Entertainment)

  • Deirdre McDonald (Sony Music Entertainment)

  • Paul Robinson (Warner Music Group)

  • Portia Sabin (Kill Rock Stars)

  • Tom Silverman (Tommy Boy Entertainment)

  • Julie Swidler (Sony Music Entertainment)

  • Will Tanous (Universal Music Group)

The RIAA represents over 1,600 member labels, which are private corporate entities such as record labels and distributors, and collectively create and distribute about 90% of recorded music sold in the United States. The largest and most influential of the members are the "Big Three":

The RIAA also represents other major record labels such as Atlantic, Capitol, RCA, Warner Bros., Columbia, and Motown.[10]

The RIAA reports that total retail value of recordings sold by their members was $10.4 billion[11] at the end of 2007, a decline from $14.6 billion in 1999. Estimated retail revenues from recorded music in the United States grew 11.4% in 2016 to $7.7 billion.[12]

Sales certification

The RIAA operates an award program for albums that sell a large number of copies.[13] The program originally began in 1958, with a Gold Award for singles and albums that reach $1,000,000 in sales. The criterion was changed in 1975 to the number of copies sold, with albums selling 500,000 copies awarded the Gold Award. In 1976, a Platinum Award was added for one million sales. In 1989 new criteria were introduced, with a "Gold Award" for singles that reach 500,000 in sales and a "Platinum Award" for singles that reach 1,000,000 in sales; and in 1999 a Diamond Award for ten million sales was introduced.[14] The awards are open to both RIAA members and non-members.[15]

Since 2000,[16] the RIAA also operates a similar program for Latin music sales, called Los Premios de Oro y De Platino. Currently, a Disco De Oro (Gold) is awarded for 30,000 units and a Disco De Platino is awarded for 60,000 units, with Album Multi-Platino at 120,000 and "Diamante" for 10x platino.[17] The RIAA defines "Latin music" as a type of release with 51% or more of its content recorded in Spanish.

"Digital" single certification

In 2004, the RIAA added a branch of certification for what it calls "digital" recordings, meaning roughly "recordings transferred to the recipient over a network" (such as those sold via the iTunes Store), and excluding other obviously digital media such as those on CD, DAT, or MiniDisc. In 2006, "digital ringtones" were added to this branch of certification. Starting in 2013, streaming from audio and video streaming services such as Spotify and YouTube also began to be counted towards the certification using the formula of 100 streams being the equivalent of one download, RIAA certification for singles therefore no longer represents true sales.[18][19] In the same year, the RIAA introduced the Latin Digital Award for digital recordings in Spanish.[17] As of 2016, the certification criteria for these recordings are as follows:[20]

Digital awards:

  • Gold: 500,000 units

  • Platinum: 1,000,000 units

  • Multi-Platinum: 2,000,000 units (increments of 1,000,000 thereafter)

  • Diamond: 10,000,000 units

The units are defined as follows:

  1. A permanent digital download counts as 1 Unit

  2. 150 on-demand audio and/or video streams count as 1 Unit

Latin digital awards:

  • Disco de Oro (Gold): 30,000 copies

  • Disco de Platino (Platinum): 60,000 copies

  • Disco de Multi-Platino (Multi-Platinum): 120,000 copies

Album certification

In February 2016, RIAA updated its certification criteria for album to include streaming and track sales using the formula for album-equivalent unit.[21]

  • Gold: 500,000 units

  • Platinum: 1,000,000 units

  • Multi-Platinum: 2,000,000 units (increments of 1,000,000 thereafter)

  • Diamond: 10,000,000 units

For certification purposes, each unit may be one the following:[22]

  1. sale of a digital album or physical album

  2. 10 track downloads from the album

  3. 1,500 on-demand audio and/or video streams from the album

Video Longform certification

Along with albums, digital albums, and singles there is another classification of music release called "Video Longform." This release format includes DVD and VHS releases, and certain live albums and compilation albums. The certification criteria is slightly different from other styles.[23]

  • Gold: 50,000 copies

  • Platinum: 100,000 copies

  • Multi-Platinum: 200,000 copies

Efforts against infringement of members' copyrights

Efforts against file sharing

The RIAA opposes unauthorized sharing of its music. Studies conducted since the association began its campaign against peer-to-peer file-sharing have concluded that losses incurred per download range from negligible[24][25] to moderate.[26]

The association has commenced high-profile lawsuits against file sharing service providers. It has also commenced a series of lawsuits against individuals suspected of file sharing, notably college students and parents of file sharing children. It is accused of employing techniques such as peer-to-peer "decoying" and "spoofing" to combat file sharing.[27][28]

In late 2008 they announced they would stop their lawsuits,[29] and instead attempt to work with ISPs to persuade them to use a three-strike system for file sharing involving issuing two warnings and then cutting off Internet service after the third strike.[30]

Selection of defendants

The RIAA names defendants based on ISP identification of the subscriber associated with an IP address,[31] and as such do not know any additional information about a person before they sue. After an Internet subscriber's identity is discovered, but before an individual lawsuit is filed, the subscriber is typically offered an opportunity to settle. The standard settlement is a payment to the RIAA and an agreement not to engage in file-sharing of music and is usually on par with statutory damages of $750 per work, with the RIAA choosing the number of works it deems "reasonable." For cases that do not settle at this amount, the RIAA has gone to trial, seeking statutory damages from the jury, written into The Digital Theft Deterrence and Copyright Damages Improvement Act of 1999 as between $750 and $30,000 per work or $750 and $150,000 per work if "willful."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Citizen oppose the ability of the RIAA and other companies to "strip Internet users of anonymity without allowing them to challenge the order in court."[32][33]

The RIAA's methods of identifying individual users had, in some rare cases, led to the issuing of subpoena to a recently deceased 83-year-old woman,[34] an elderly computer novice,[35] and a family reportedly without any computer at all.[36]

Settlement programs

In February 2007, the RIAA began sending letters accusing Internet users of sharing files and directing them to web site P2PLAWSUITS.COM, where they can make "discount" settlements payable by credit card.[37] The letters go on to say that anyone not settling will have lawsuits brought against them. Typical settlements are between $3,000 and $12,000. This new strategy was formed because the RIAA's legal fees were cutting into the income from settlements.[38] In 2008, RIAA sued 19-year-old Ciara Sauro for allegedly sharing ten songs online.[39]

The RIAA also launched an "early settlement program" directed to ISPs and to colleges and universities, urging them to pass along letters to subscribers and students offering early settlements, prior to the disclosure of their identities. The settlement letters urged ISPs to preserve evidence for the benefit of the RIAA and invited the students and subscribers to visit an RIAA website for the purpose of entering into a "discount settlement" payable by credit card.[40] By March 2007, the focus had shifted from ISPs to colleges and universities.[38][41][42]

In October 1998, the Recording Industry Association of America filed a lawsuit in the Ninth U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco claiming the Diamond Multimedia Rio PMP300 player violated the 1992 Audio Home Recording Act. The Rio PMP300 was significant because it was the second portable consumer MP3 digital audio player released on the market. The three judge panel ruled in favor of Diamond, paving the way for the development of the portable digital player market.[43]

In 2003, the RIAA sued college student developers of LAN search engines Phynd and Flatlan, describing them as "a sophisticated network designed to enable widespread music thievery."[44][45][46]

In September 2003, the RIAA filed suit in civil court against several private individuals who had shared large numbers of files with Kazaa. Most of these suits were settled with monetary payments averaging $3,000. Kazaa publisher Sharman Networks responded with a lawsuit against the RIAA, alleging that the terms of use of the network were violated and that unauthorized client software was used in the investigation to track down the individual file sharers (such as Kazaa Lite). An effort to throw out this suit was denied in January 2004, however, that suit was settled in 2006. Sharman Networks agreed to a global settlement of litigation brought against it by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), and the RIAA. The creators of the popular Kazaa file-sharing network will pay $115 million to the RIAA, unspecified future amounts to the MPAA and the software industry, and install filters on its networks to prevent users from sharing copyrighted works on its network.[47]

RIAA has also filed suit in 2006 to enjoin digital XM Satellite Radio from enabling its subscribers from playing songs it has recorded from its satellite broadcasts.[48] It is also suing several Internet radio stations.[49]

On October 12, 2007, the RIAA sued Usenet.com seeking a permanent injunction to prevent the company from "aiding, encouraging, enabling, inducing, causing, materially contributing to, or otherwise facilitating" copyright infringement. This suit, the first that the RIAA has filed against a Usenet provider, has added another branch to the RIAA's rapidly expanding fight to curb the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials. Unlike many of the RIAA's previous lawsuits, this suit is filed against the provider of a service who has no direct means of removing infringing content. The RIAA's argument relies heavily on the fact the Usenet.com, the only defendant that has been named currently, promoted their service with slogans and phrases that strongly suggested that the service could be used to obtain free music.

On April 28, 2008, RIAA member labels sued Project Playlist, a web music search site, claiming that the majority of the sound recordings in the site's index of links are infringing. Project Playlist's website denies that any of the music is hosted on Project Playlist's own servers.[50]

On June 30, 2009, The Recording Industry Association of America prevailed in its fight against Usenet.com, in a decision, that the U.S. District Judge Harold Baer of the Southern District of New York ruled in favor of the music industry on all its main arguments: that Usenet.com is guilty of direct, contributory, and vicarious infringement. In addition, and perhaps most importantly for future cases, Baer said that Usenet.com can't claim protection under the Sony Betamax decision. That ruling states that companies can't be held liable for contributory infringement if the device they create is "capable of significant non-infringing uses."[51] Furthermore, the parties are now headed to federal court for damage assessments and awards, which could amount to several millions of dollars for the music industry.[52]

On October 26, 2010, RIAA members won a case against LimeWire, a P2P file sharing network, for illegal distribution of copyrighted works.[53] On October 29, in retaliation, riaa.org was taken offline via denial-of-service attacks executed by members of Operation Payback and Anonymous.[54]

The "work made for hire" controversy

In 1999, Mitch Glazier, a Congressional staff attorney, inserted, without public notice or comment, substantive language into the final markup of a "technical corrections" section of copyright legislation, classifying many music recordings as "works made for hire", thereby stripping artists of their copyright interests and transferring those interests to their record labels.[55][56] Shortly afterwards, Glazier was hired as Senior Vice President of Government Relations and Legislative Counsel for the RIAA, which vigorously defended the change when it came to light.[57] The battle over the disputed provision led to the formation of the Recording Artists' Coalition, which successfully lobbied for repeal of the change.[58][59]

Executive leadership of RIAA

  • Goddard Lieberson 1964–1977 (president)[60]

  • Stanley Gortikov c. 1985 (president)

  • Jay Berman c. 1982 (president)

  • Hilary Rosen 1998–2001 (president)

  • Cary Sherman 2001–2011 (president); 2011–present (chairman and CEO)[61]

See also

  • Center for Copyright Information

  • Federal Communications Commission

  • Global music industry market share data

  • International Intellectual Property Alliance

  • List of RIAA member labels

  • Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)

  • Music Canada

  • Parental Advisory


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