Writings of a techie wizard
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Sat, 03 Mar 2012

Cary Sherman, the CEO of the RIAA, is upset. He says those mean and nasty Internet companies shut down SOPA and PIPA by spreading misinformation and claiming it was fact. Well, after reading his recent op-ed in the New York Times, I will certainly concede that Mr. Sherman ought to know about that sort of thing, since he is evidently an expert at it. Just for fun, I thought I would post some examples.

Since when is it censorship to shut down an operation that an American court, upon a thorough review of evidence, has determined to be illegal?

Oh, is that all Mr. Sherman wants to do? He can do that now, under existing law, and his organization certainly hasn't been shy about it. In fact, he hasn't even been shy about shutting down operations without going through all the hassle of taking them to court or getting a review of the evidence, but simply on his say-so. One wonders why he needs SOPA and PIPA in the first place. Whatever happened to "innocent until proven guilty"?

As it happens, the television networks that actively supported SOPA and PIPA didn't take advantage of their broadcast credibility to press their case. That's partly because "old media" draws a line between "news" and "editorial." Apparently, Wikipedia and Google don't recognize the ethical boundary between the neutral reporting of information and the presentation of editorial opinion as fact.

What? Google has editorials plastered all over its search page? I must have missed it. Wikipedia has "SOPA is bad" banners at the top of every article? I guess I need to get my eyes checked because I didn't see them. Or maybe Google and Wikipedia said negative things about SOPA/PIPA on their blogs or their editorial pages--you know, the places which are clearly marked as expressing their opinions, not facts.

Of course, Mr. Sherman would certainly like to have his opinion accepted as fact. In fact, it's hard to tell whether or not he even knows the difference. He writes an "opinion" piece and gets it published on the op-ed page, where you are supposed to give your opinions, and then states his opinions as facts and hopes nobody notices. Hmm.

Perhaps the problem is that Mr. Sherman has some vocabulary issues. For example:

Policy makers had recognized a constitutional (and economic) imperative to protect American property from theft, to shield consumers from counterfeit products and fraud, and to combat foreign criminals who exploit technology to steal American ingenuity and jobs.

By "American property" he means "the money RIAA companies make by exploiting the work of artists", not "the actual work done by the artists, which is what people actually want to listen to".

They knew that music sales in the United States are less than half of what they were in 1999, when the file-sharing site Napster emerged,

By "music sales" he means "sales of CDs", not "sales of music". In other words, he means "sales of stuff I want to sell because I'm too lazy to actually give customers what they want".

and that direct employment in the industry had fallen by more than half since then, to less than 10,000.

By "the industry" he means "companies which are members of the RIAA". He does not mean "anybody who actually makes music".

They studied the problem in all its dimensions, through multiple hearings.

None of which included the people who actually make the Internet work. In fact, as I noted in a previous post, several technical experts were supposed to testify before Congress, the first opportunity any such experts had had to do so, on January 18th; but there's no indication that the hearing ever actually happened.

But perhaps the real problem is something else. Mr. Sherman lets slip an interesting comment towards the end of his article:

The conventional wisdom is that the defeat of these bills shows the power of the digital commons. Sure, anybody could click on a link or tweet in outrage - but how many knew what they were supporting or opposing?

Good question. How many legislators who initially said they supported SOPA/PIPA knew what they were supporting? How many who switched to opposing it did so because they actually read the bills, so they did know what they were opposing?

The root of the problem is that Mr. Sherman and the rest of the "old media" simply don't understand what's happened. They don't understand that the reason they're having all these problems is that the Internet has killed their business model. They think it must be some evil plot by "hackers" and "pirates", because surely people wouldn't just stop buying CDs because, say, they wanted more convenience and knew there were ways to get it? Naw, that couldn't be it.

No doubt, some genuinely wanted to protect Americans against theft but were sincerely concerned about how the language in the bill might be interpreted. But others may simply believe that online music, books and movies should be free.

Or we may believe that if we are going to pay money for music, books, and movies, we should get something worth paying that money for, not something that's been emasculated and micromanaged to the point where it's more trouble than it's worth. And that our money should go to the people that actually create, not the people that exploit them. And that we should not be treated like potential thieves when all we want to do is listen to music, read books, or watch movies.

Posted at 20:50   |   Category: rants   |   Tags: computers, politics   |   Permalink
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