Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Your tax dollars at work...

...providing corporate welfare to billion-dollar industries

Well, I guess nobody ever accused our government of doing anything intelligent, but this one deserves special recognition - a bill that is receiving bipartisan support aims to outlaw filesharing:

Popular file-trading networks such as Kazaa and Morpheus would be outlawed under a new bill that enjoys broad support from top Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Senate.

Their legislation says "whoever intentionally induces any violation" of copyright law would be legally liable for those violations, a prohibition that would effectively ban file-swapping networks and could also imperil some consumer electronics devices.

It surprises me not at all that Grand Wacko Fucktard Orrin Hatch is a key proponent of this legislation... the guy has been on the wrong side of reason for at least the last twenty years. Everyone knows Hatch is crazy. Even crazy people. Everyone.

The problems with banning P2P networks include:

It can't be done.

Encryption, trust-boundary/friend-of-a-friend networking, and almost total connectivity saturation ensure that, in some form or another, file trading will always exist. The only attempts that have come close to stopping file trading have been the draconian efforts of the Chinese government, and even they are losing the battle due to technologies like Freenet. The internet is the closest we've ever come to a truly democratic technology, and throughout history there have been concerted efforts on the part of the vested interests to fight such things: popes and politicians, kings and capitalists, they've always agreed that The People need to be prevented from communicating. If 'freedom of the press is for those who own one', it's just easier for them to smash the presses. This current legislation is a hamfisted attempt to do just that with today's technology.

Current copyright laws are ludicrous.

The RIAA/MPAA have bought a lot of politicians in their efforts to 'protect their copyrights'. As a result, some seriously defective copyright legislation is in place, including an indefinite extension of copyright that is preventing any work produced after 1923 from entering the public domain, which is the same as saying that it prevents those works from becoming a part of our culture. Most media companies have a huge backlog of currently-unpublished materials that they are just keeping to make sure no one else makes money off of it, even when they themselves have no intention of rereleasing any of it. This is a huge cultural loss... years from now, the only record of these days will be the one the marketers have decided on.

The idea that congress can legislate such things is unconstitutional, and they know it.

The constitution grants congress the power "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries". They've already weaseled their way around the 'limited Times' part of that clause, granting themselves power to extend copyright indefinitely. Now, on that shaky legal ground, they are trying to build additional layers of legislation that will shore up their newfound unconstitutional powers. Once they have a body of laws in place that are predicated on the assumed legality of the tweaked copyright laws, the house of cards will be too fragile to disturb, and their campaign contributors will buy them all houses in Hawaii.

The punishment doesn't fit the crime.

The RIAA has managed to convince congress that anyone caught downloading a few songs caused them to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars. Most of the 3,429 people against whom the RIAA has filed lawsuits have settled out of court for a few thousand dollars and a promise to never fileshare again, but this is mostly because not a single case has actually gone to trial. When they come at you with a lawsuit that says you are responsible for a quarter of a million dollars in damages, you'll settle fast... but the whole thing reeks of corporate hooliganism.

The profit margin for the media companies (*not* for the artists themselves, who are being more fucked by the media companies than they are by the file-sharing) is so large that file-sharing hardly dents it.

Every single study that has been done by non-industry researchers has shown that the overall effect file-sharing has on CD sales ranges from zero to positive. The media industry studies show the exact opposite, but their yearly profit reports put the lie to their own press releases.

Those are just the first few reasons that rattled off the top of my head.

I know writers, artists, musicians, and filmmakers, and I'd like to see them make a living at what they do. The first step in doing this, however, is *not* to start throwing kids in jail for file-trading, or attacking those who create the technologies that enable such a thing. They could just as soon attack the VCR manufacturers for enabling the taping of TV shows (err... they *did* do that, actually) or the CD-burner manufacturers for letting people copy files (err, they tried that too. Real progressive types, these guys.) Many music and book companies are finding that they make more money by giving away some of their product than they do by selling it - the goodwill such an act generates, combined with the ability to test-drive the product before commiting your cash, seems to have a very positive effect on sales.

This from Moby:

Personally i just can't see any good in coming from punishing people for being music fans and making the effort to hear new music. I'm almost tempted to go onto kazaa and download some of my own music, just to see if the RIAA would sue me for having mp3's of my own songs on my hard-drive.

The place to start is for the various media industries to provide proper recompense to the artists. This, however, would cut into their filthy lucre, and the fatcats would squeal like a pig and pull the strings on their congressional puppets to pass laws ensuring high profits for the corporations at the expense of the artists who are the bedrock of their industry, so it's never going to happen. The next best place to start is to fuck corporate media altogether... get your music from indie studios, support your local art house, watch films at the funky old church converted into a theater instead of at the Super Mega Mega Shopping Plex theater, get as far away from Fox News as you can and get your news from independent sources on the web. Don't buy CDs from big realworld or online shops... order them direct from the indie label, or even better go the the show and buy the CD there... they get all $10 of it instead of the pennies they get after Big Business is done screwing them.

As someone who has studied programming, networking, and cryptography, my overall reaction to this new bill is 'bring it on'. Just as with Napster, the laws will only spur evolutionary development of new technologies that circumvent their silly little laws. Watching these particular dinosaurs die off in the face of a changing world has a certain romantic appeal to me.