A2IM president Richard Bengloff sent an e-mail to over a dozen members attending this week’s Digital Music Forum East conference highly critical of participating companies LimeWire and Myxer. While it stopped short of outright recommending that members not attend a reception LimeWire is hosting as part of the event, Bengloff said he plans to skip the event “as it could appear to be seen as an endorsement of LimeWire.”

In the note, he disclosed that both companies had applied for A2IM membership, but were rejected on the grounds that “these services have a different definition of ‘respect of copyright’ than A2IM.”

The full memo:

To All-

A commerce goal of A2IM is to achieve economic parity for our music label members. We strive for that every day in many ways. The purpose of this e-mail is to discuss economic parity for our associate members, professional service providers which should be rewarded for their support and equitable treatment of our member community.

A2IM associate members like Pandora, to name one, which is by far the #1 webcaster in terms of non-on demand music streams in the U.S. (and not coincidentally, they play the largest percentage of independent music, almost 40%) paid approximately $28 million in sound recording royalties for last year and, via SoundExchange, delivers parity to indie artists and labels.

Conversely, there are services like LimeWire, Myxer and many more that, by the nature of their services, make it too easy for consumers to violate copyright and/or compensate independents in a sub-standard fashion or not at all. Many services promise "promotion" in lieu of compensation (as recorded music sales continue to plummet, in part due to these services). In some cases services may also use the guise of user generated content databases containing our labels' artists' music as an excuse for any infringements. These services know that many of our music label members do not have the time and capital required to monitor the web for infringement nor to take the subsequent legal action.

The above named services, and others, have applied for A2IM associate membership and have been rejected by your A2IM board as these services have a different definition of "respect of copyright" than A2IM. They would use their A2IM membership as a promotional badge to meet and sign-up our A2IM members and others. That could create an unlevel playing field for our associate members that do compensate independents and that would be unfair. Creators of music and the music labels that invest in that creation should be compensated for their music unless the content owner or artist decides, at his or her discretion, to discount or give away that music for a window of time. Should these technology businesses change their business models and services to properly compensate our independent community we would embrace their becoming members of A2IM.

As recently described to us by an A2IM member, LimeStore uses the LimeWire illegal hits to drive traffic to their "legal site". LimeWire will be having a reception this Thursday night as part of Digital Music Forum East ("DMFE"), an excellent conference that we message to our members as a good event to attend to learn and keep updated on the digital world (http://www.digitalmusicforum.com/east/). I will not be attending the LimeWire Thursday night reception as it could appear to be seen as an endorsement of LimeWire by A2IM.

This is a statement of A2IM's policy position and not a recommendation to our members as to what our members should do either individually or collectively. A2IM, as is our policy, is not advocating any group action of any type, Every A2IM member needs to make their HIS OR HER own business decisions, including what parties they HE OR SHE ATTENDS attend and whom they have as business partners, and we embrace that philosophy. That said, I am sharing with you the above A2IM commerce philosophy as background information as you individually decide what you individually will be doing this coming Thursday night. I look forward to seeing you all at DMFE.

Best always,
Rich Bengloff, A2IM