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When Political Expedience and the Public Interest Intersect

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Always thinking ahead, Glenn Reynolds has some perspicacious advice for President Bush and the new Republican Congress:

    I think that the Bush Administration needs to do something dramatic that will position it on the side of consumers against Evil Big Business. And I have just the thing: The Bush Administration should take on the crooks and thugs of the recording and movie industries. And it should do so on the side of artists and consumers.

    It’s widely believed that the recording industry shafts its artists. As Ken Layne has pointed out, when 9,000 artist accounts were audited, 8,999 were found to have involved underpayments to the artists. Artist retirement funds have been underfunded, too — sometimes to ridiculous levels. And the record companies recently settled a price-fixing suit brought by state attorneys general.

    ….by siding with artists, the Administration will be able to split an industry that’s usually united against the Republicans right down the middle. And voters identify with actors and musicians much more than with the suits who run the record and movie industries.

And those suits typically donate lavishly to the Democratic party. Glenn should be a political strategist. There is no question that between entertainment industry attacks on file-sharing, their disastrous attempts at copy-protection (note this class action suit against the majors identifying copy-protected Cds as “defective”), the royalty audit results, artist-unfriendly contracts and practices, heck, half the news stories we discuss on Blogcritics, reflect very badly on the industry.

While I personally believe (just my hunch after reviewing the glut of claims, counter-claims, charges, studies, accusations, spin, and falderol) that file-sharing IS impacting record sales in the short run (new toy – “FREE MUSIC BY DOING THIS!…”) in the medium to long run this method of “sampling” will generate more sales than it will cost, and equally importantly, the industry has contributed to their own sales problems by (until very recently) not aggressively pursuing a user-friendly authorized digital download service, by making the morality of “sharing” so much easier to justify with their antagonistic approach to “pirates/consumers”, their refusal to dramatically act upon the new digital reality by greatly reducing CD prices, and by VERY heavy-handed legislation proposed by obvious industry shills like Howard Berman who have gone so far as to propose unfettered industry access to personal computers that amounts to little more than legalized vandalism and Big Brotherism of the worst kind.

The net result of all this? – very pissed off consumers and a very pervasive anti-industry feeling. Were Republicans to make a principled stand with consumers and/or artists (not all the same fight) against the most obvious abuses of the industry – a great start would be to clearly define and defend “fair use” – they would persuade many Democratic-leaning consumers who care about these issues that their interests would be best served by voting Republican, or at least their perception that the Republicans are the party of big business would be weakened. Cynical calculation or not, at least the public interest would be served.

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