Tuesday, December 23, 2003

RIAA and MPAA - Poor, Poor Pitiful Me

And with these trade organizations, it is me, me, me, me, and more me, please.

The music industry is a profitable but basically self-hating, failing organism. The business model built over the last 25 or so years, based on Album sales and indentured-servitude artist contracts, is based in another time and another place. The record companies' refusal to re-evaluate and re-structure, with current culture and technology in mind, is setting back art (or at least Pop Art) 25 years in the process, all to support funneling revenue to the top of the business food chain.

The movie industry has found ways, in the face of changing culture and technology, to prosper. Still relying on the blockbuster (not Blockbuster©) for profits to support the less-or-non-profitable releases, motion picture studios need to figure out a way to level the differences between profitable movies and non-profitable movies so more and better films can be made, but finds ways (like home/rental video releases andforeignn distribution) to recoup expenses from even modestly attended film releases.

These industries desire to be ten times bigger than they are, but they will never be pharmaceutical companies or automobile manufacturers. The potential for exponentially increased profits (and more yachts, tennis courts, and Lakers tickets for the execs) blinds these industries to how they may be able to ensure that there is a profitable entertainment industry for their grandchildren, and that our entertainment continues to become more...entertaining, and enlightening.

So what do they do to their best customers? Sue them! Tell them they are criminals for listening to free music! Whack away at the best marketing tools since the invention of radio and television.

The recent rulings against the RIAA's actions and specific sections of the DMCA are perhaps the first blows for sanity, and the future of music, in quite a while. Simply put, the RIAA isn't a special class, and potential violators of copyright law, whether on the internet, at a friend's house, or at your local public library, have to be treated at least as well as any other accused criminal. An ISP can't be responsible for what people do with its technology any more than Ma Bell could when Al Capone called to order a hit on someone.

Whether trading a file on the internet is indeed a violation of any law has not yet been tested in the courts. As someone who depends on the music industry for his living, I insist that there be a way to recognize when an artistic creation belongs to me, and a way for revenue generated by this art to reach me.

Copyright law is woefully inadequate to the task in light of today's technology and culture. The DMCA is a step backward to an economic stone age, where the caveman with the biggest club will win the prey; in fact, it puts that club in the hand of it's worst-case owner: the government. Anyone who considers themselves conservative and has expressed a desire for smaller government should have been howling at this travesty of personal rights since its first draft, but the DMCA was passed in an atmosphere of supporting a bigger, stronger government and political structure at any cost. Jefferson's ideal of limited copyright to encourage creativity yet not empower government or big-business monopolies over art should be the model to which we return.

The RIAA has positioned itself to gain enormous political power, through its recent appointment of Cary Sherman as president in particular, far beyond its natural reach in society. It has superficially liberal politicians, like California's Boxer and Waxman, basically on the industry teat, supporting the town-company like a company-town politician should.

These politicians won't have a broad voter base if the voters wake up and see how they protect, at least in this instance, the greed of the few over the need of the many; the ranks of artists and consumers far outweigh the privileged entertainment industry executive class.

The RIAA and MPAA do not in any way, shape, or form, represent the interests of artists and consumers They must realize that society and industry will be better served by more creative art and unfettered freedom, and act to support art and free exchange of ideas.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Good points in this letter to the LATimes:

"doctors, lawyers and insurance companies who benefit from this $30-billion extortion", "California employers pay two to three times more than the rest of the country and give legitimately injured workers the worst benefits in the nation".

I would bet that this business owner voted to recall the sitting Governor and voted to elect Schwarzenegger. She blames the state legislature for this situation, and I can't argue much about any negative evaluation of that snake pit. To blame our porky representatives for the greed and robbery of the insurance companies is ultimately disingenuous.

Insurance companies, barring 9/11 losses, are having a great year, and a great decade. They spread out your-and-my money by investing it, so their stock market profits have been flat over, say, five years. Is it any surprise that given the opportunity, and legal possibility, they raise rates when and where they can? Since WC insurance is required of employers by state law, state law should also reasonably regulate what the employers can be charged.

Given that studies show that Californians are nearly 50% more likely that the residents of other states to file WC claims, we have to know that human nature will rear its beautiful head when allowed. This does not mean that we can let Business Nature grab small businesses (who insures the insurers?...) and toss them (at least the cowardly, unimaginative and racist among them) to neighboring states.