Monday, November 14, 2005

Bad legislation

The world of "fair use" and "the customer is always right" are numbered. I know, this isn't anything new. In fact, I have bemoaned this very fact several times. But I can't escape the fact that we, a supposed democratic republic, are not in fact represented by those whom we put in office (through our vote or our neglect). Those who claim to be our representatives answer to a higher law, big business. Don't believe me? Let's look at the current problem by first looking at the past.

The late 1990's. So-called "piracy" actually stimulated sales of albums, as people were able to hear the music before they plunked down their hard-earned dollars. Consumers were getting wary because popular music was crap and albums were (and still are) populated with maybe one good song and completely padded with poor songs. A little later, the dot-com bust happened. The economy took a dive. People were still buying, but not as much, because there wasn't as much money. The one good thing going for the music industry, something that actually got people excited about music again, was killed off (Napster).

But the "piracy" continued. People hopped over to other services. Music sales continued down. But the discretionary spending of the average American was down, not just in music, but in all areas of luxury spending. But no, it had to be the "piracy." Sharing services came and went, and the industry decided that suing their customers was a good idea. Hey, no consumer has the money to fight the lawyers hired by the deep pockets of the music industry, so nothing came to court and no one could get the courts to declare their (the music industry's) actions as illegal. But the "piracy" continued, because there are so many people and only so many lawsuits that could be filed at a time. Hey, you might get unlucky, but more likely, you will be ignored, or so the logic went.

Now we come to today. We have politicians easily in the pockets of the music industry who are happy to trade our rights as citizens and consumers to accommodate those who create the shoddy content, the music. There is a law being considered that would virtually take away fair use, in the name of "protecting" the profits of the music industry. The law is called the Analog Content Security Preservation Act of 2005, and you can read about it on Extreme DRM or on the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Of course, I have faith that some plucky hacker out there will circumvent any technological protection scheme, but when the laws of the country are not protecting the citizens, we are one step closer to a fascist state. Some day, we will look back on the old days when the RIAA just sued its customers, and wish things were still so simple. "Back then (we will say), we knew who our enemies were."