Sunday, October 05, 2003

Listen, It Isn't the Labels. It's the Law (

Jeff Howe, a contributing editor for Wired, offers a sound analysis of the p2p scene in his contribution to today's Washington Post Outlook section, Listen, It Isn't the Labels. It's the Law (

He's been covering the music industry throughout the p2p controversy, from Napster to the present. He was origninally with the filesharers, but has since had some opinion reversals. He points out that "The Labels" as such are almost without exception owned by large media conglomerates, and that they in turn include smaller labels, where the fat-cat industry exec figure just doesn't exist. The little guys at the little labels, he notes, bear more in common with the filesharing aficionados, and they also happen to be the ones losing their jobs right now.

No, the problem isn't with the labels, or with the "pirates," but with the laws themselves, especially the DMCA. While a lot of us out here in the blogosphere, in technology/internet-related fields (be they of the techie, the social scientific, or the humanistic variety) are aware of the problems with IP laws (and good for Howe, he explicitly singles out fair use), and may even be actively striving for change, lots of people out there simply aren't aware of the laws.

So, what do we do? Well, Howe offers a vision for the future, which he then turns around and critiques. I think I'm with him on both:

"What I'd like to see is a community of technology users -- and this includes just about all of us now -- who respect the laws that are on the books, and therefore restrain themselves from sharing copyrighted material, while agitating for the repeal of laws that threaten our protections and liberties. I'm hardly reassured by those two-thirds of American downloaders who -- according to a recent poll by Pew Internet and American Life Project -- don't know or care whether what they download is protected by copyright. If they can't be bothered to respect the perfectly reasonable provisions of copyright law, I'm hardly confident they can be relied on to fight against the unreasonable ones. "

The long and short of these types of hopes for agitation: copyright law is dry, confusing, and inconsistent. Filesharing is free and easy. The path of least resistance is not self-education on copyright followed by informed advocacy. The path of least resistance is to keep doin' what you're doin' until a compelling reason or a newer technology encourages change. Inertia.

- posted by laurie @ 10/05/2003 04:21:00 PM
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