Every now and again, it's good to get a reminder that what we're doing is good and necessary. We saw it on a number of fronts in 2007, from the Net Neutrality/broadband issue to work on making the spectrum auction more accessible.
As a year-end jolt, however, nothing worked better than Marc Fisher's column in the Dec. 30 Washington Post.
The headline was: “Download Uproar: Record Industry Goes After Personal Use.” Fisher's story was about the recording industry suing someone who burned 2,000 of his own, lawfully purchased CDs onto his own laptop. There's no illegal downloading here, no “piracy” as the industry likes to claim.
We're not even talking about the infamous trial of Jammie Thomas in Minnesota, who was fined $9,250 per song in a downloading case — this in an industry in which $6.00 will buy you a month's worth of songs.
Here's the guts of Fisher' story: “At the Thomas trial in Minnesota, Sony BMG's chief of litigation, Jennifer Pariser, testified that 'when an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song.' Copying a song you bought is 'a nice way of saying 'steals just one copy,' ' she said.”
There you have it. Consumers have no rights. No CD belongs to anyone for his or her own lawful use or fair use.
As Fisher put it, “The RIAA's legal crusade against its customers is a classic example of an old media company clinging to a business model that has collapsed.”
As for the record biz: “The industry 'will continue to bring lawsuits' against those who 'ignore years of warnings,' RIAA spokesman Jonathan Lamy said in a statement. 'It's not our first choice, but it's a necessary part of the equation. There are consequences for breaking the law.' And, perhaps, for firing up your computer.”
The business model may have collapsed, but as Sherwin pointed out, that hasn't stopped the industry from pushing its agenda with even more Draconian “enforcement” measures that the industry's defenders in Congress are willing to impose on consumers.
It's that attitude by Hollywood, and the knee-jerk response from Congress that makes our work important. We're happy to be the ones out front who say, “Not so fast.” We did it in 2007 and will work to make sure that in 2008 and beyond that Hollywood and Congress get the message that consumers have rights, too.
Just in time for a Happy New Year, the DMCA makes the funny papers.. If the link changes, look for the Dec. 30 edition of Foxtrot.