Congress' most enlightened public representative Rick Boucher has vowed to introduce a bill that outlaws share-denial jinxed audio CDs, and as a bonus, has promised to re-examine the webcasting copyright racket that forced so many small-time webcasters to quite the airwaves recently.
We don’t know what holy light guides Rep. Boucher, but it's a holy light indeed: he's singular amongst public representatives in daring to reclaim the works of popular culture as something that belong to The Commons (that's us) … rather than something that belongs in perpetuity to an industry that depends on its legitimacy on an antiquated distribution system.
Boucher has vowed to redress the draconian effects of the DMCA with new legislation before, and this week he delivered on his promise: explaining legislation that preserves the right of 'fair use'.
Boucher called for the Library of Congress royalty system to be scrapped:-
"The music industry needs to take off the brakes … the vast majority of the Internet consuming public is honest and would be willing to pay for online music [especially if] the music industry would agree to put its entire inventory online," he said at a conference keynote [link]
Boucher has scoped the battlefield, defined it in terms we can understand, and elaborated a battle plan, and now it's up to the rest of the community to see how far this notion flies.
But that's where Boucher runs into a problem: those parts of the geek community that know the score already, are irrevocably hostile to any kind of legislation that defends their interests.
The technical community has two fundamental objections to overcome when discussing Boucher's insurgency. The first is the axiom that Laws Are Bad - and that any new laws in particular, are especially baaaaaad. This rubs against the techno-libertarianism that has been the predominant ideology in American venture capital circles for the last few years, and it's generally founded on the principle that Markets Are Perfect, and can't fail. Libertarians tend to converge on the doubting middle ground and beat them to death with their pie-charts, even when the empirical evidence suggests that reality is departing from the scene at Warp Speed
Now markets are good - and ancient, and predate modern usurous capitalism by, oh… 4,000 years or so... - but they fail regularly and often, as recent examples such as Enron and MSFT prove. Markets are actually a place where you can get away with Murder… if only you try hard enough,
But the wild-eyed techno orthodoxy decrees that consumers are the only God, whereas in fact, by the simple act of marking an X on a a ballot paper, we can make our feelings made perfectly clear. Congress could be filled with six hundred Rick Bouchers if only we tried hard enough.
And this runs into the second Geek Quandry which is:- collectively, we're completely useless at explaining things such as fair use to our friends, cousins and the world at large. It's pretty easy to rally a Slashdot crusade against something, but for every one of us hollering, there are maybe twenty or so friends and relatives who are none the wiser. Isn't it time we started creating telephone trees: friendly advisories urging people we know what to buy and what not to buy? Karma whoring on Slashdot might win a few friends, but Boucher''s fight needs to be taken to the illeratari: and that's an audience geekland is ill-equipped to reason with.
Geekdom is fantastic at being AGAINST something, and it's hopeless at being FOR something. Being against something is intellectually a no-brainer, especially if you're twelve years old - but constructive engagement with the devil requires patience, tact, strategy and empathy, and these are skills you need to win, but skills the knee-jerkers amongst us don't have. So generally, we're being very poorly represented.
Although organizations such as the EFF have done us proud, they're ideologically mired in this oppositional knee jerk philosophy. Although the EFF has many gifted mediators (Cory springs to mind) it's yet to escape the closed-mind meme that can convert your weird stunted cousin to the cause. Boucher's crusade requires us to breach that divide.
It's up to you how you make that connection.
My experience of unearthing CPRM - an almighty back-door mindfuck which would have rendered our PCs down forever to be dumb entertainment playback devices - left me with one simple wish: we extend media ownership laws to ensure that no entertainment company (eg Sony) can ever own both the content and the playback device. Nor that the owner playback device (eg Microsoft, Symbian/Nokia) ever own the 'content': the studios and film companies.
That's a law you can pass in two lines, and doesn't it make the most perfect goddam sense? ®
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