The New York Times today published an op-ed written by Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) head Cary Sherman that’s little more than a massive whine over the defeat of SOPA and PIPA that reads like a breakup letter written by a shocked, scornful former lover. Here, allow me to translate: “You’re an as$hole and you’re too stupid to realize how good I was and I’m pretty and I deserved better but that’s okay because now I’ll find someone who really loves me and HOW DARE YOU BE SO MEAN TO ME WHAAAAHHHHH!!!”
Seriously, that’s how the whole thing reads — repeating the same, tired old arguments that have shown to be false and misleading while continuing to ignore the fact that big media companies need to evolve or die.
Where do I even begin? So many red herrings, so little time.
Let’s focus, I suppose, on the main ones: that piracy is the only reason the music industry no longer takes in what it did in the 1990s, and that SOPA & PIPA would have worked through the courts.
Policy makers had recognized a constitutional (and economic) imperative to protect American property from theft, to shield consumers from counterfeit products and fraud, and to combat foreign criminals who exploit technology to steal American ingenuity and jobs. They knew that music sales in the United States are less than half of what they were in 1999, when the file-sharing site Napster emerged, and that direct employment in the industry had fallen by more than half since then, to less than 10,000. They studied the problem in all its dimensions, through multiple hearings.
While no legislation is perfect, the Protect Intellectual Property Act (or PIPA) was carefully devised, with nearly unanimous bipartisan support in the Senate, and its House counterpart, the Stop Online Piracy Act (or SOPA), was based on existing statutes and Supreme Court precedents. But at the 11th hour, a flood of e-mails and phone calls to Congress stopped the legislation in its tracks. Was this the result of democracy, or demagoguery?
Misinformation may be a dirty trick, but it works. Consider, for example, the claim that SOPA and PIPA were “censorship,” a loaded and inflammatory term designed to evoke images of crackdowns on pro-democracy Web sites by China or Iran. Since when is it censorship to shut down an operation that an American court, upon a thorough review of evidence, has determined to be illegal? When the police close down a store fencing stolen goods, it isn’t censorship, but when those stolen goods are fenced online, it is?
Oh god do we really have to go through this again. As we’ve laid out before, music industry revenues are down from what they were at their peak in the 90s for two main reasons: people back then were replacing cassette tapes with higher-priced CDs like mad, and the advent of the MP3 allows people the luxury of buying individual tracks legally rather than buying an entire album. (And now that the courts have ruled that it’s legal for consumers to sell MP3s they no longer want as “used” at a discounted price the industry’s likely to lose even more money.)There are other factors but those are the biggest, in my opinion. There, done.
Secondly, the system we have in place now — where media companies are forced to go through the courts to shut down websites like Megaupload and other they believe are stealing from them — is slow and tedious but works and SOPA/PIPA would have actually eliminated the “thorough review of evidence” in the courts and would have effectively given the entertainment industry access to a switch to turn off the lights on any site they felt was infringing on their copyright — a classic shoot first and ask question later scenario. Sherman is flat-out lying when he says these bills, at least in their original form, wouldn’t have given them the ability to destroy livelihoods in this way.
And that’s about all of this nonsense I can tolerate for now — go read Sherman’s whole whiny screed if you want to feel like punching yourself in the face.