The EU

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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Music File Sharing

The Boston University PhD Student, Joel Tenenbaum, was yesterday convicted of violating copyright laws and fined $675,000.  The Boston Globe made it page 1 and above the fold.

One of the things that makes Mr Tenebaum an unattractive defendant is that he seems to have a tendency to lie, even under oath.  That said, he is in a room full of lawyers, who are members of a guild that disgraced itself on the pages of The New York Times earlier this week, when members of that guild violated their oath of office by disclosing information under seal.  Regarding Mr Tenebaum, people who lie to protect themselves do not garner as much sympathy as might others.

However, back to the RIAA and copyright law.  The Recording Industry Association of America is not an organization with which one easily develops sympathy. They are attempting to perpetuate business practices that should have begun shifting in the 1960s, when small reel to reel tape recorders first appeared, followed by cassettes.  It is sad, really.  For example, if music stores had shifted their model and allowed one to listen to songs in booths and using in-store equipment make up one's own tapes, or later CDs, they might have done much better.  The American model is about choice.  Getting stuck with songs one doesn't like, because some recording company manager things you should pay for it, is unattractive.  For more information on RIAA, one can check Wikipedia here.

And, with RIAA having sent payment demands to 18,000 people, asking for $3,000 to $5,000, that is a lot of money they have been trying to rake in.  that is $72,000,000 on average.  I wonder if there isn't some double dipping going on.  If they hit each individual involved in a file-sharing network for the value of the song as though it had been purchased by each member of the file-sharing network, they would be charging more than the value.  That suspicion is unattractive.

Then there is the whole copyright extension racket, that has been going on in the last 50 years.  This extension of copyrights and the narrowing of fair use has been working against the growth of the economy and culture.  The ability of people to build upon what has gone before is important and copyright impedes that.  It is time to role that back.

Having said that, the recording artists deserve their pay, "for the laborer deserves his payment."  On the other hand, is it the artist who reaps the money or is it the recording industry managers.  Don't get me wrong, they deserve to be paid also?  My question is, have actions in constraint of fair trade strangled this child of capitalism in the crib?  Fro example, go back to ten years—and to the Wikipedia entry on RIAA and read about "works made for hire."
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.  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.  The battle over the disputed provision led to the formation of the Recording Artists' Coalition, which successfully lobbied for repeal of the change.
(More on Congressional staffers slipping things into legislation in later blog posts.)

In sum, I don't find anything attractive on either side on this law suit and find that our US Congress has also been playing a bad role.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Still the parent company of The Boston Globe.
  Here is a small discussion on a local blog
  At at $5,000 per, it would be 90 million dollars.
  Luke 10:7.

1 comment:

Mockingbird said...

Though I don't mention Tenenbaum explicitly, my own recent post overlaps somewhat with yours.