Posts filed under “Politics”

New Arguments Against P2P: The Phony Moral Debate

“Its Illegal.”

That’s the phrase the Recording Industry have been chanting nonstop for the past 5 years. It has been the mantra of the big labels and studios ever since Napster winked into existence.

But a subtle shift is already underway. As we await the Supreme Court’s decision in the Grokster case, the industry — or in this case, its apologists — is positioning itself for a defeat on the merits. They want and need a fall back position, in the event the Supreme Court decides not to overturn the well settled law — "substantial non infringing use" — of Sony BetaMax case.

If the Betamax decision is not overturned, than on the law, the case is over: Articles such as this one — File-sharing case worries Indie artists — incontrovertibly demonstrate the inescapable conclusion that not only are there substantial non infringing uses for P2P, but they are from direct business competitors to the Big Labels. If P2P is quashed, it would have the effect of limiting competition to the majors from the small, underfunded, scrappy independents.

And that’s even before we get to the issue of stifling technological innovation.

Indeed, knowledgeable observers have long since figured out that P2P is not about copyright at all. Instead, its about disintermediation — getting the Labels out of the middle, removing them from between the artist and the listener.

Of course the labels are horrified about P2P — it makes them irrelevant. Who the hell wants to be replaced by a collaborative filter?

But even if the industry wins the Grokster case, the result will be a pyrrhic victory, largely unenforceable against the free roaming decentralized software the Recording Industry inadvertently birthed when they litigated the centralized Napster to death. In fact, just this past week, the WSJ Op-Ed page acknowledged that stopping swapping is all but impossible:

Allofmp3, which resides in . . . Russia, and was described to me by one knowledgeable user as "more or less legal." Even if the anti-Grokster forces can next afford to spend 10 years to win (and enforce) MGM v. Putin et al. in the Hague, there will always be another wave of digitized aliens hacking through the copyright walls. There has to be a better way.”

So a new approach has been hatched: Apologists for the industry are replacing the catchphrase “Its illegal” with a new mantra.

Are you ready to hear what it is? (Hold onto your seat):

“Its morally wrong.”

Allow that to sink in a moment. One of the most corrupt, decadent, morally bankrupt industries the planet has ever seen is now making the argument that people should not use P2P — due to the ethical considerations:

“It may seem quaintly old school to suggest that people should stop downloading culture without paying simply because it’s the right thing to do. But that may be the best option available.”  -Daniel Henninger, WSJ

I find that approach utterly fascinating, more than a little infuriating, and outright hilarious — all at once. The Recording Industry must be hellbent on getting into the Guinness Book of World Records for the most hypocritical, disingenuous, cynical, and intellectually dishonest arguments in the history of mankind.

You want to play that way? OK, I’m game. Let’s go along. If the industry wants to have a discussion on morality, lets have a closer look at this black kettle, the house of glass they want to throw stones from. Let’s examine how the industry arrived at where it is today — but according to their wishes, from an ethical standpoint.

Remember, we are not arguing about what is legal, but rather what is RIGHT or WRONG:


Price Fixing: Wrong (and Illegal):

Lets start our discussion with the Free Markets. Our capitalist
system relies on competition to set prices on goods and services. But
what happens when the distributors of these very same goods get
together and illegally fix prices?

That conspiracy does substantial
damage to both consumers of these useful and creative arts, as well as
their creators. When a group of plutocrats thwarts the
capitalist system, everyone but them loses. Consumers have less access
to these works, as the Labels illegally maintained prices higher than
the market place would have borne. These oligopolists extract monopoly profits, while the bands sell that many less units. And the creators of these works, who
derive the lion’s share of their income from publishing their music and playing to audiences, gets
that much less exposure, recognition and money.

Its just wrong.

Amazingly, even after they got caught, the recording industry cheated on their price fixing
settlement. Part of the
resolution included donations of CDs to libraries. In direct
contradiction to the spirit of the agreement, the labels used the
opportunity to dump tons of junk CDs — old, unpopular, and many
repeats of the same CDs — onto libraries. 

It was only after a group
of Librarians contacted the State Attorney Generals involved in the
case — along with some uncomfortable press coverage — that the
industry was embarrassed into doing the right thing.


UPDATE  April 21, 2005  10:55pm

Lest you think I am leaving out the MPAA — Here’s a charming example of THEIR respect for the law:



Two NYPD veterans are being investigated by Internal Affairs for allegedly accepting payoffs from the motion-picture industry to arrest vendors of pirated DVDs, law-enforcement sources told The Post.

One officer, a sergeant on the force since 1992, has been transferred from the Staten Island Task Force to the 122nd Precinct pending the internal investigation. The other, a cop for five years, still works on the task force.

As members of the unit, the officers, ages 36 and 32, would arrest the sellers of illegal DVDs and confiscate their stock. Often they would act on tips from investigators with the Motion Picture Association of America, many of whom are former cops, sources said.

There is nothing improper about that practice. But on at least four occasions in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island, the task force officers arrested the vendors, confiscated the illegal movies and then allegedly received gratuities of several hundred dollars from the MPAA itself or its investigators, the source said. The MPAA strongly denied that the payoffs came from the trade organization.

Note that the MPAA does not deny a payment was made — just that they didn’t make (an agent on their behalf, perhaps?)


Jamie Schram
NY Post, April 21, 2005

Read More

Category: Film, Finance, Music, Politics

Living Will

Category: Politics

WSJ Poll: Congress should not intervene

Category: Politics

SEC Budget Insufficient for New Hires

Category: Markets, Politics

Brain Drain threatened

Category: Politics, Science, Web/Tech

What does the World Think of U.S. ?

Category: Media, Politics

The Mystery of the Awful Economists

“We have 2 classes of forecasters: Those who don’t know… and those who don’t know they don’t know.” — John Kenneth Galbraith I’ve been making a fortune lately. (No, I don’t own any Google IPO shares). Each month, I’ve been betting on the outcome of the Non-Farm Payroll report against my economist colleagues. I’ve been…Read More

Category: Economy, Markets, Politics

Waking up to China

Category: Commodities, Media, Politics

Read it here first: China’s Latin American Oil Grab

Category: Commodities, Economy, Politics

Political Futures, Revisited

Category: Markets, Politics