The Russian Front

In the war over copyright law a new front has opened. After being fired upon by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (and, presumably, the RIAA), the Russian government has agreed to shut down “websites that permit illegal distribution of music and other copyright works.” Russia has agreed to modify its laws by June 1, 2007 to make sites such illegal. I’m surprised that the same government who just dispatched former spy Alexander Litvinenko would be so willing to just roll over. Maybe it’s all a ruse. Maybe when the deadline passes and the US cries foul, they will simply have lunch delivered to RIAA CEO Mitch Bainwol in the form of a polonium sandwich. I wouldn’t mess with the Russian mob, if I were you, Mitch.

It’s sad news though in this terrible War, which, like so many other wars (Poverty, Drugs, Terrorism) is nothing more than a war on the rights of the individual. It was nice to see someone — *anyone* — willing to stand their ground and tell the RIAA to go to hell.

I used to be firmly in the other camp: defend the artists’ rights to profit from their creations, as provided by the Constitution. But then one day I realized that even though I am a potential beneficiary of this manufactured right, I value my natural rights to privacy and to freely contract much more. And since technology has led us all to a point where this pretend right can no longer be enforced without violating real rights, Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 simply becomes null and void. Add it to the list of fundamental flaws in our Constitution.

If it wasn’t such an egregious violation of our rights, I could almost feel sympathy for the recording industry, as it flails about watching its business model evaporate before its very eyes, lashing out against those who would do it harm. Suing grandmothers (both alive and dead) for downloading rap music, while ignoring the sins of its own. Eighty-three year old Gertrude Walton died in December 2004, but that didn’t stop the RIAA from suing her. Meanwhile, in December 2006, the CEO of Warner Music admits that his own children have illegally downloaded music, and yet nothing happens to them.

Why the disparity? Because, you see, it’s all about the money. The RIAA would like to take the moral high ground, and claim they are just defending the rights of their artists, but their actions betray them. All they care about is the money. The law used to be crafted such that they were guaranteed a profit on their product. But technology has rendered copyright law obsolete. Rather than pursuing new revenue streams, they seek to infringe upon the rights of all people — not just Americans anymore — by drafting and pushing through Congress legislation like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The DMCA will gut, if it hasn’t already gutted, the notion of “fair use” and puts into place provisions of enforcement that are simply Draconian.

The RIAA (and MPAA) will get their money. Even if they have to sue, slander, and terrorize every person and country on Earth. Watch out comrades!

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