You have dedicated a major part of your life's work to fighting for good causes, bringing pressure to bear on the powerful and political elite to effect positive change. In the same way that you have called for action from world leaders, we now call upon you to look at the facts surrounding Digital Restrictions Management (DRM), and join us in demanding an end to handcuffs on technology and culture.
The recording industry claims that if they don't impose these handcuffs, online music distribution will be disastrous for artists. We have heard these arguments before. In the early 1900s, music publishers cried out that the fledgling recording industry was usurping the profits of musical composers. We heard it again in the 1980s, when industry executives vehemently assured us that the VCR would destroy the movies, and audio cassettes would kill music.
In all these cases, people copied, swapped and shared, just as they do today. In each instance there was an explosion in the amount of art enjoyed. More, not less art was created. More, not less, money was collected by business - though the music companies did not always care about supporting the musicians. The fact is, the more art we are exposed to as a society, the more art we appreciate. The act of copying and sharing creates more art lovers who can support more artists. Copying and sharing have been vital protagonists in the flourishing story of music.
The art of music changes with technology. With the digital tools now available to them, young people are remixing and "mashing up" music and visual art to make new original works. Copying and manipulation of the media are necessary to do this, but DRM restrictions prevent it.
Your record label's parent company Vivendi-Universal plays a leading role in imposing these restrictions on digital technology. Meanwhile, trade groups like the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) lobby continuously for ever more draconian restrictions and pursue intimidating lawsuits against fans they accuse of circumventing them.
As technologists we have come together in an effort to help raise public awareness of the threats posed by DRM. Because of your past accomplishments as a musician and activist, you command the respect needed to bring this debate to the public. Musicians in Canada have already formed a coalition to stand up against the actions of their record labels (musiccreators.ca), but we need artists everywhere to be conscious of what is being done in their name. We the undersigned urge you to speak out in favor of technology and culture free from digital restrictions.