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The Intellectual Property Debate, Pt. 267

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Our pal Scott Matthews, the mad coder behind the Andromeda player that supports Radio Free Blogcritics writes in Salon that file sharing is tres suck. He makes many of the same points as our own bhw, although the particular target of Scott’s ire is the Electronic Frontier Foundation, more friends of ours – it’s tough when your friends are squabbling:

    As the record industry prepares hundreds of lawsuits targeting people suspected of illegally copying music over the Internet, a broad coalition of leading academics and civil libertarians is standing up for “file sharing” with the intention of ushering in a new copyright system.

    Case in point: The Electronic Frontier Foundation, longtime defender of free speech and privacy online, is sponsoring an advertising campaign with the slogan “File Sharing: It’s Music to Our Ears.” Seeking to recruit new members who are “tired of being treated like a criminal for sharing music online,” the ad’s message is clear: It’s cool to copy music, regardless of the copyright status.

    The EFF’s goal, like that of many legal scholars, software coders and media pundits, is a new system of compensation for copyright holders that would legitimize file sharing, generally through some new tax on Internet use that would be redistributed to content creators.

    But the tacit endorsement of copyright violation seems intended to force the change rather than open it to debate: The more people engage in file sharing, the stronger the case that it can’t be stopped, and that our current system of copyright must therefore be scrapped.

    This is a bad idea propagated in bad faith. Rather than cheering on file sharing, the EFF should be presenting us with the details of its alternative so that we can measure it against our current copyright system, and collectively decide which system we prefer.

    The major record companies — mostly in the guise of their lobbying group, the Recording Industry Association of America, or RIAA — have been widely criticized as being heavy-handed in their response to file sharing. But the tactics and goals of those leading the charge against them have generally avoided scrutiny. It’s time to take a closer look.

And look he does. The EFF’s Jason Schultz responds:

    The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has finally launched its campaign of lawsuits against the 60 million Americans who file-share. And already, we’ve seen the first casualties — a 12-year-old girl and her mother in New York must pay $2,000 they don’t have in a hastened settlement; a 71-year-old grandfather in Texas has to hire a lawyer to defend himself and his grandkids; a single mother in Colorado searches for legal advice she can’t afford. These are the horror stories of the current copyright wars.

    It doesn’t have to be this way. There are alternatives. That’s why EFF launched the Let the Music Play Campaign, to create a showcase for reasonable solutions that don’t involve endless lawsuits. None of them is perfect; all of them have flaws and drawbacks. But all of them are preferable to thousands of lawsuits against individual American families. A good solution will get artists paid, while protecting the privacy and free-speech rights of fans.

    Some critics worry that changes made in the copyright law for music may be detrimental to changes in the copyright law for software, books and other copyrighted works. This is a perfectly legitimate concern and has been addressed in several of the plans on our site. For example, the “voluntary collective licensing” plan is specific to the music industry and does not apply to software or other copyrighted works. Just as ASCAP and BMI collect blanket licensing fees from radio stations today, so could similar organizations collect fees from P2P users for file-sharing music. No other copyright owners would be affected by such a plan….

I will say what I always say: I want to see creators get paid – I’m a creator of sorts myself and I could sure as hell use more money – but the current system is illogical, counterproductive, and serves no one other than the copyright industry and superstars. Love is the answer, or large guns, make that licensing via broadband.

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