June 6, 2012
Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) CEO Cary Sherman wants big internet service corporations to block content he says is destroying a fossilized music industry.
Sherman made his remarks before a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on “The Future of Audio.”
The hearing was held because Congress is deciding if government should allow business to put FM receivers in the next generation of smart phones.
Congress has lorded over the radio spectrum since the Radio Act of 1927. A few years later, in 1934, the Federal Communications Commission was established as “one of the New Deal’s spawn” (as Myles Kantor calls it) and government-enforced monoplies were fixedly set in place.
Sherman would like to see “intermediaries like search engines… [negotiate] voluntary marketplace best practices to prevent directing users to sites that are dedicated to violating property rights.”
In other words, Sherman and the RIAA want Google to delist certain websites in Orwellian memory hole fashion.
Google is not likely to comply.
In March, it filed an amicus brief in support of HotFile.com, a website that hosts user content. It said legal action against the site would set a legal precedent and endanger the social internet. Corporate movie studios objected and insisted the website and others like it need to be sanctioned because they support media piracy. Google said it is up to the movie corporations to find copyright violators and then report them to the hosting company and demand the content be removed under the the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a blatantly unconstitutional law.
As the MegaUpload.com case demonstrates, the feds are more than willing to work with dinosaur transnational entertainment corporations and shut down websites. It will continue to attack popular websites in order to show that it can effectively, if ham-fistedly, act as an attack dog for its corporate benefactors.
“The indictment of MegaUpload has had a tremendous impact on other such rogue cyberlocker sites,” Sherman told Congress. “The government’s action sends a signal that the United States will not tolerate the use of the Internet for criminal activity that violates our laws.”
It will also show alternative media producers they will not be allowed to operate without the state coming down on their backs in carte blanche fashion.
The RIAA and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) are in the business of stigmatizing file sharing as criminal behavior despite the fact much of the content is original and is not in violation of copyright law. MegaUpload.com and HotFile.com represent a “business model that cuts out the legacy gatekeepers” and allows alternative content producers to distribute their products to consumers without the burdensome intervention of a middleman.
For more than a decade, the music industry has accused peer-to-peer technology and file-sharing sites of destroying their industry. Both the RIAA and the MPAA, however, have wildly overstated the loss of revenue due to file-sharing, as a study by Robert Brewer demonstrates.
“Decline in the sales of physical copies of recorded music cannot be attributed solely to file-sharing, but should be explained by a combination of factors such as changing patterns in music consumption, decreasing disposable household incomes for leisure products and increasing sales of digital content through online platforms,” write Bart Cammaerts and Bingchun Meng of the London School of Economics.
Both the music and film industry are largely to blame for their misfortune as consumers find more appealing alternatives via the internet, alternatives that are distributed by “user-friendly, hassle-free solutions” rejected out-of-hand and routinely demonized by fossilized media corporations. The same argument can be made for the establishment’s corporate media now rapidly being replaced by alternative news models.
In a knee-jerk and thuggish fashion historically representative of monopolies, large corporations have come to depend on paid-off grocery clerks in Congress to do their coercive bidding and wipe out a smarter, more nimble and innovative competition.