Monday, March 03, 2008

The music cartel has sent lots of letters

On both sides of the Atlantic, the RIAA has been busy trying to make people stop being mean to them.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review gets a letter from Cara Duckworth, stung that the paper criticised the music industry. In particular:

To set the record straight on a recycled error, The Washington Post inaccurately reported that we claimed in a lawsuit that it was illegal to make personal-use copies of music that fans lawfully purchased. We made no such claim, and the newspaper has since issued a retraction for its inaccurate story.

Well, up to a point that's true - the Post did retract a story:
A Dec. 30 Style & Arts column incorrectly said that the recording industry "maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer." In a copyright-infringement lawsuit, the industry's lawyer argued that the actions of an Arizona man, the defendant, were illegal because the songs were located in a "shared folder" on his computer for distribution on a peer-to-peer network.

However, Recording Industry Vs The People has an interesting take on that particular case. But, more to the point, what about Jennifer Pariser, head lawyer of Sony BMG and her claim in court:
[In her] opinion that making copies of purchased music is just "a nice way of saying 'steals just one copy.'"

Maybe the Post should retract its retraction?

Duckworth then goes on to teach us that we've got a lot to be thankful to the RIAA for:
During the past decade, the music industry has dramatically reinvented itself. Fans today enjoy access to an unprecedented array of high-value, enhanced physical products and industry-licensed distribution platforms that include satellite radio, multiple Internet radio models, download sites and a variety of existing and emerging mobile phone models.

Ah, yes, where would we be without all that innovation? Except, of course, none of the innovation has come from the RIAA, and all the licensed content has been signed over, reluctantly, expensively, eventually, grudgingly by the labels after they realised they had no choice.

Funnily enough, Matt Philips was trying to pull a similar trick over in the Technology Guardian:
The internet has allowed the music business to develop new models that provide immediate low-cost access to millions of songs at the click of a button.

Clearly, the RIAA and its clients are trying to rewrite history, their scowling faces as they jabbed pitchforks at the new media gathering online being replaced with welcoming twinkles. The internet has allowed the labels to do this? As if in 1995 they were sat around backstage at the Brit Awards wishing there was a way they could make available their back catalogue in a way that was almost impossible to prevent replication. How about "The internet has forced us", Matt. It's great that some of you are finally turning up at the front, but let's not pretend you were in the vanguard.

Philips, of course, was writing in defence of the plans to force ISPs to disconnect users from the internet at the request of the record labels; like Duckworth, he managed to deliver a straight fact without bothering to engage with what might lay beyond it:
Illegal downloading and freedom of speech are unrelated topics, and it is misleading to draw parallels between the two. The music business has no wish to restrict free comment, but it does want to protect creators and there is no human right to enjoy creators' work for nothing.

Well, no, the BPI doesn't say it wants to shut people's free speech up (in just the same way that nobody who opposes their proposals has ever suggested there is a human right to not pay creators a fair wage for their work). But leaving aside the awkward fact that most creators have no stake in the fruits of their inspiration - the BPI wouldn't give a hoot if it wasn't its members labels who owned the bulk of these copyrights - in an age where much of government is being taken online, with eVoting, Downing Street and other consultations publishing documents electronically rather than physically; planning applications being listed on council websites and on and on, it's hard to see how someone could have their internet connection withdrawn on the say-so of EMI or Sony and not have their ability to participate in democracy seriously undermined.