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Speaking of Overreaction

August 31, 2010 19:10:36.609

The Commerce Secretary sees danger from.... file sharing:

“This isn’t just an issue of right and wrong,” Locke said in a speech at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, one of the nation’s musical focal points. “This is a fundamental issue of America’s economic competitiveness.”

In a (very small) sense, he's correct about it being an issue of competitiveness. Sadly for him, he's on the wrong side. Adding another layer of rules and bringing back DRM won't stop the large scale pirates, but it will make life miserable for the rest of us.

posted by James Robertson


Re: Speaking of Overreaction

[W^L+] August 31, 2010 19:57:55.939

Just the fact that he uses the term "pirates" tells me that he doesn't understand any of the relevant issues.

(1) The Constitution's justification for patents and copyrights doesn't include corporations, work-for-hire, or "IP" that lasts beyond the original creator's lifetime. See [link 1]

(2) He's concerned about the economic health of the music, movie, and other "content" industries, but he makes the mistake of equating corporate profits with industry health. This is the same mistake that DOC and DOL (the Commerce and Labor departments) make when they equate GDP with the economy's health when even Adam Smith said that a nation's economic health is best measured by the impact on the common person's economic life. To discover the health of the music industry, for example, one cannot merely aggregate the profits of the RIAA member companies on a graph. One must consider the guy with a Mac and Audacity who creates his own weekly music-cast, the guy who parodies famous performers' music on sites like YouTube, and the guy who sits outside of Kmart strumming his guitar for tips. Above all, one must consider how many people are listening (whether paid or unpaid) to all the music being produced and whether the majority of people are passive listeners or active participants, re-mixing and adapting prior music to create new music.

(3) "Competitiveness" means he's looking (again) to profits of RIAA member companies, versus the profits of similar companies based overseas. In this sense, he's thinking of being competitive as what others might call "cultural imperialism," the practice of attempting to replace other nations' cultural norms and practices with one's own cultural norms and practices. Instead of enriching us all, it tends to produce a bland and homogenized ersatz culture everywhere.

America's music industry will again be healthy when we sit on the porch on Summer evenings, with our guitars, harmonicas, electronic keyboards, and tablet computers, generating our own music instead of depending upon a industry oligopoly of corporations to spoon-feed us the next superstar.

[1 http://lnxwalt.wordpress.com/2009/08/01/copyright-as-presently-defined-is-unconstitutional/]

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