Let the RIAA Enforce Copyright With Its Own Funds
By Staff News & Analysis - February 17, 2011

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), together with associations representing other sectors of the U.S. copyright industry, who collectively constitute the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), today submitted extensive comments to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) in connection with the "Special 301" provision of U.S. law. Under "Special 301," USTR is required to identify those countries that deny adequate and effective protection to U.S. intellectual property. –

Dominant Social Theme: Steal intellectual property and you are thief as surely as if you robbed a bank.

Free-Market Analysis: The RIAA is at it again. After litigating against teenagers, college students and single moms, the Recording Industry Association along with the IIPA (see article excerpt above) is building its case methodically for ever-tighter control over the Internet. The argument made by the RIAA is that theft of "intellectual property" is forcing a consolidation of the entertainment industry and hurting artists. In order to prevent this from happening, the Internet will have to be increasingly policed and controlled. Governments will be charged with this mandate, if the RIAA has anything to say about it.

As we shall try to point out in this article, every one of the larger IIPA's arguments regarding copyright is incorrect, if not malicious. The idea of intellectual property is in fact a power elite dominant social theme. Intent on fomenting one-world government, the elite cannot afford to lose control of information that encourages statist perspectives. After investing trillions over time in the West's youth-based music industry, it can ill afford to see its grip on this most powerful of industries slip away. Thus elite instrumentalities will twist and distort arguments to persuade not just Western governments – but governments worldwide – to adopt legal methodologies that advance their manipulative viewpoints – and copyright is a leading tool in this regard.

Yes, today, ancient battles are being refought alongside powerful new libertarian perspectives – ironically spawned by the Internet itself. There are many libertarian arguments about intellectual property – and we have explored some of them in the past. The most controversial one is that intellectual property provides no additional value to material objects and therefore does not exist. If one uses labor to create a table out of wood and metal, the value of the raw materials has been enhanced, at least in the eyes of some observers. That table can be sold and resold by "owners."

But intellectual property itself – electronic words and images – have no intrinsic worth (or so it is argued). There is no scarcity of them and even if there were, the idea that the one owner of words and images can be owned in perpetuity by their creators is fairly startling concept when looked at dispassionately. A statue can be sold and resold, and the proceeds accrue to the owner of the statue – but not to its creator. Only when it comes to "intellectual property" do we see the argument being advanced that artists are due a chunk of earnings every time a given intellectual property is sold and resold.

The RIAA and its leaders see it differently of course. They claim "there are currently 17 percent fewer professional musicians in the United States than there were 10 years ago" due to piracy of intellectual property. But, as we mentioned above, what the RIAA – and its power elite backers are really concerned about is loss of control. The youth-driven, popular music industry is an artificial one that has been cobbled together out of a series of cultural promotions – and the elite values its cultural impact tremendously. It will not let the advantages of youth culture slip away, if it can help it.

Along with feminism and various other forms of popular pathology, "teenage culture" has inflicted significant damage on the concept of family. Elites, interested in the primacy of the state, have painted the family as the enemy. Through various wave-like social movements – feminism, the promotion of the teenage rebel and the idea of "golden years" spent apart from one's family in retirement communities – family has been rent asunder, especially extended families. The wife was to be seen as exploited by the husband; teenagers "rebel" against parents and grandparents are urged to look to retirement communities to provide comfort and security in old age.

Popular music, along with cinema, has played a powerful role developing teenage angst and rebellion. By virtually creating an industry from nothing, the power elite created a powerful tool to influence young people. Along with the West's regimented public education, which constricts young minds, popular music is way of creating an enculturation that entirely distracts young people from the real world. Such adolescents know intimate details of their "faves" physical and emotional lives but almost nothing about the larger sociopolitical and economic manipulations to which they are subject.

This is par-for-the-course. The Anglo-American power elite, which is behind this sort of thing, knows not a single new trick. It is all about power and control and wicked manipulation of children. And the same manipulations have occurred throughout history, especially as regards the Gutenberg press.

Wickipedia tells us, "the origin of copyright law in most European countries lies in efforts by the church and governments to regulate and control printing, which was widely established in the 15th and 16th centuries. While governments and the church encouraged printing in many ways, which allowed the dissemination of Bibles and government information, works of dissent and criticism could also circulate rapidly. As a consequence, governments established controls over printers across Europe, requiring them to have official licenses to trade and produce books."

This is exactly what the RIAA is doing today. We have long argued the Internet is a modern Gutenberg press and within this paradigm the RIAA can be seen as taking on the provenance of Church and King as regards the enforcement of Draconian remedies. Already a worldwide "watch list" of countries that do not respect intellectual property, as the RIAA wants it respected has been established. The idea is, over time, to apply pressure to these countries to fall in line with the RIAA's idea of what constitutes intellectual property and how it compensation should work. Here's some more from Wikipedia on previous attempts regarding such activities:

As the "menace" of printing spread, governments established centralised control mechanisms and in 1557 the British Crown thought to stem the flow of seditious and heretical books by chartering the Stationers' Company. The right to print was limited to the members of that guild, and thirty years later the Star Chamber was chartered to curtail the "greate enormities and abuses" of "dyvers contentyous and disorderlye persons professinge the arte or mystere of pryntinge or selling of books." The right to print was restricted to two universities and to the 21 existing printers in the city of London, which had 53 printing presses. The French crown also repressed printing, and printer Etienne Dolet was burned at the stake in 1546. As the British took control of type founding in 1637, printers fled to the Netherlands. Confrontation with authority made printers radical and rebellious, with 800 authors, printers and book dealers being incarcerated in the Bastille before it was stormed in 1789.

In England the printers, known as stationers, formed a collective organisation, known as the Stationers' Company. In the 16th century the Stationers' Company was given the power to require all lawfully printed books to be entered into its register. Only members of the Stationers' Company could enter books into the register. This meant that the Stationers' Company achieved a dominant position over publishing in 17th century England (no equivalent arrangement formed in Scotland and Ireland). The monopoly came to an end in 1694, when the English Parliament did not renew the Stationers Company's power. The newly established Parliament of Great Britain passed the first copyright statute, the Statute of Anne, full title "An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned".

The coming into force of the Statute of Anne in April 1710 marked a historic moment in the development of copyright law. … To encourage "learned men to compose and write useful books" the statute guaranteed the finite right to print and reprint those works. It established a pragmatic bargain involving authors, the booksellers and the public. The Statute of Anne ended the old system whereby only literature that met the censorship standards administered by the booksellers could appear in print. The statute furthermore created a public domain for literature, as previously all literature belonged to the booksellers forever.

When the statutory copyright term provided for by the Statute of Anne began to expire in 1731 London booksellers thought to defend their dominant position … but [it was decided] that copyright itself did expire. This opened the market for cheap reprints of works from Shakespeare, John Milton and Geoffrey Chaucer, works now considered classics. The expansion of the public domain in books broke the dominance of the London booksellers and allowed for competition, with the number of London booksellers and publishers rising threefold from 111 to 308 between 1772 and 1802.

One of the operative points in the above is that booksellers and publishers alike prospered once intellectual property was not so rigorously controlled. Of course the same is true today. Those bands and artists – and writers – who offer their wares freely are often able to build a far larger audience than those who attempt to control every scrap of creative material. The New York Times and other major papers have attempted to put up pay walls in the era of the Internet, but the result has been that viewers have merely traveled to other places in the blogosphere where the information is freely available.

As we have often pointed out in the past, by dint of perseverance the power elite was able to turn the Gutenberg era of information plenty into one of information scarcity that reached its peak in the 20th century. But the meme of information scarcity has been entirely exploded in the Internet era – and it will take many decades before the elite recovers its previous stranglehold, if it ever does. Of course the PE never gives up. Through the RIAA and other such organizations, it is once again (as it always does when responding to a threat) attempting to harness the force of government to ensure their perspectives are carried forth globally. This is mercantilism – marrying private self-interest to public enforcement – and it is the weary way the Anglosphere always operates.

Instead of having government enforce copyright and patents, why not give consideration to allowing the market itself to make these determinations? If the RIAA wants to enforce its prerogatives – as it sees them – let it come up with contractual language and let it ENFORCE that language within the marketplace without the help of the public purse. Once the costs/benefits are actually placed within a market context the reality of copyright law would swiftly come into focus. Would such a solution result in less wealth for the hand picked artists presented by the power elite? Yes, no doubt. Artists would have to tour more and rely on personal interactions with fans for remuneration.

But what the elite is really worried about is losing the franchise itself. Without the industry's icy grip, who knows what kinds of music would emerge. One thing is for certain in our view – the Western music industry would start to partake of a far richer palate and the steady menu of meaningless adolescent love songs – along with the determined avoidance of political and economic themes – would gradually erode. Music (and other arts) would become truly seditious (in the best way) once again. Without the elite's stranglehold, even the demographics would likely shift. Older musicians would, perhaps, be able to make a living and airplay would expand for those who are currently shut out.

After Thoughts

Market-based (civil) copyright enforcement would provide realistic parameters for what a real music industry would look like. If RIAA-types are so concerned about copyright, let them enforce it with their own funds instead of trying to create a vast authoritarian web of police spies and a whole new body of fairly totalitarian, anti-Internet law, worldwide.

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