EEPI - Electronic Entertainment Policy Initiative

EEPI Home Page

EEPI Announcements Mailing List Information

EEPI Discussions Mailing List Information


[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[ EEPI-Discuss ] Re: Congress threatens actions against file-sharing firms

>Date: Fri, 29 Jul 2005 21:39:10 -0700 (PDT)
>From: Lauren Weinstein 
>Subject: [ EEPI-Discuss ] Congress threatens actions against
>    file-sharing firms
>   The head of the Senate Commerce Committee warned online
>   file-sharing companies this week that if they do not crack down
>   on piracy and pornography available via their networks, Congress
>   will force them to act.

A few comments about this:

 (1) Pornography is really a red herring here, added for rhetorical
purposes to cast aspersions on P2P systems in general.  They also like to
connect P2P systems with terrorism and crime gangs, equally spuriously.
This stuff is baldly distracting in intent, purely part of a nefarious and
self-serving issue-framing strategy.

Even piracy itself hasn't been definitively demonstrated as a dominant
activity on P2P (personal use without sharing could easily dominate the
incidence of offering to others, both in terms of (a) numbers of people
offering anything to others, and (b) proportion of what people use
personally that is offered to others).  The issue here from a legal
perspective is actually not the downloading for personal use (much fuzzier
legal precedents) but rather the *offering* of content to "millions" of
others.  The data presented so far are not empirically convincing at all,
especially with the RIAA lawsuits that may well be inhibiting the incidence
of offering.  (Granted, it doesn't take a majority of people offering to
provide value to those downloading -- the "80/20" rule applies generally
here.  But given the state of law in the system right now, the legal
arguments are not slam-dunk by any means.)

 (2) Putting pressure on *companies* that build P2P software does nothing
to address open-source P2P software that is replacing company-driven
products as a platform for P2P activity, especially open-source SW created
overseas (pay increasing attention to international treaties moving
forward).  If policy is going to be productive, it has to at least have a
chance of being effective, and it must address the correct targets.  I
think the causal theory put forth by the "conventional wisdom" or "received
view" (i.e., PR from the content control industry, aided and abetted by
unquestioning mainstream journalism) is fundamentally flawed, which
undermines any policies based on that theory -- or else it betrays those
policies as having more important ulterior motives that we should pay
attention to (the unspoken ancillary effects are the more dangerous ones).
In short, what seems to be threatened by these Senators would not actually
constrain the incidence of P2P activity, while it could certainly impinge
further upon civil liberties.

 (3) Mitch Bainwol rejected collective licensing paradigms (even voluntary
forms) out of hand as a non-starter -- just who is obstructing productive
solutions here?  I understand why he is taking this position, but that
doesn't make it right for the country or for the world or even for
individual creative people (as opposed to the large corporations that
aggregate ownership of content rights).

 (4) The Senators appear not to understand the true realities and motives
at work here (or they may be responding to what they perceive as the public
understanding of these issues), which is of course the goal of those
propagating the conventional wisdom.  Score one point for the content
control industry against the public interest (especially as propagated by
the mainstream media -- the reality of what happened at that meeting is
that there is no legislation pending to address this stuff, and the meeting
probably amounted more to rhetorical grandstanding than actual informing of
the public).  But, the game is far from over.  The truth will set you free.

EEPI-Discuss mailing list information: