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Double Jeopardy for kids caught in Pepsi Apple promo

Superbowl Shame

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Four children bullied by the Recording Industry Association of America will re-enact their shame for tens of millions of TV viewers today, at the behest of two giant American corporations: Apple Computer and Pepsi Cola Inc.

Instead of using actors to dramatize their shame, the RIAA, Apple and Pepsi have forced the children themselves to conform with the copyright regime, and to look suitably browbeaten as a series of captions reads: INCRIMINATED … ACCUSED … BUSTED … CHARGED.

Is this a medieval costume drama? A low-budget dramatization of some era of America's dark and troubled past, as recorded by Hawthorne, when public humiliations were commonplace? Or is it some strange and sadistic imported Japanese game show - the kind where people assent to be filmed eating worms ?

No, it's a home-grown artifact which will be broadcast at great expense across the nation during the annual US Superbowl sport event today. The advertisement features four victims of the RIAA's legal jihad wearing the Scarlet Letter of their own shame for the benefit of the TV cameras - and quite disgustingly, the RIAA insisted that the agency couldn't hire stand-in actors to replay the script, asking that the 'perpetrators' play themselves : a move which is likely to be remembered as one of the greatest public relations disasters in history.

But let’s bear with it. This shameful advertisement - which apparently cost Pepsi (and not Apple, we're relieved to report) as much as $2 million, was entirely home grown, and has a very moral payload. The broadcast encourages children to buy as much teeth-rotting Pepsi soda as they can in the hope of finding a token that allows them to a free, DRM-infected piece of music.

Lucky them!

Ironies abound, as you might imagine. Where shall we start?

Well Apple Computer isn't the only party that wants to exploit abused children, on this most of American of Sundays. MoveOn made a submission, also featuring children, but found itself rejected because it was deemed to represent a 'special interest group'. We're not sure what vacuum these arbiters of public taste live in. But with three of the four constituents of the entertainment industry - consumers, device manufacturers and artists - eager to discuss fairer compensation models, it's hard to see any other conclusion than that the RIAA is a very, very special interest group indeed.

There's more. Suburban pub-rock 'punks' Green Day recorded a version of I Fought The Law And The Law Won for the occasion, to provide a soundtrack for the pigopolist lobby group.

And how reputations crumble.

Twenty years ago, let's not forget, Apple used a Superbowl TV intermission to introduce its iconographic Macintosh computer with the image of an athlete smashing Big Brother. The easy-to-use computer proved to be a liberating tool for personal creativity and with Adobe's Postscript and Aldus' software, created the desktop publishing industry. Now the same Apple is endeavoring to reduce personal freedoms by ushering in a regime where the recording industry enforces copyright with Big Brother's iron fist.

The exercise will be lost on the children of Apple founder Steve Jobs, however. He wisely doesn't allow his kids to watch TV, or drink sickly sodas, advocating Odwalla's excellent fruit juices instead. Do as he does, not as he says, we suggest.

For more coherent models - which make nonsense of such corporate child-abuse - we suggest you check out the mathematics here. ®

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