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Fighting the Pigopolists with bricks not bluster

Routing around the RIAA

Letters An overwhelming response to our report on Rep. Rick Boucher's proposal to outlaw share-denial systems, beginning with copy-protected CDs [see Congressman vows Pigopolist legislation]. In this report we resurrected a modest proposal of ours which is neither new nor entirely original, but which caught your attention nevertheless : that we legislate the entertainment complex off our PCs for good.

It's pretty simple. You're allowed to own either a content creation empire - a studio or label - or a playback device empire (Walkmans, or PCs). But you can't have both.

This idea is an anathema to today's libertarian techno orthodoxy: or at least in its West Coast version. Governments are bad, and can only do bad things. But this is now, post-Enron, post the DoJ's AntiTrust Seattlement, and with the perspective of the EFF - the best we've got - having failed in its noble crusades against the Pigopolists. The RIAA is stronger than ever, and not only have the forces of light failed to halt its advance, the geek world looks more isolated, and less able to transmit the imperatives to the rest of the world.


Kudos to you on the insightful article! You have in very few words explained something inherent to the geek community that I have been trying to wrap my brain around for several months - why there is nothing other than name-calling and pouting going on on this side of the fence to counter the eloquent stupidity of the MPAA/RIAA and their cronies.

We need someone who can explain in simple terms, to anyone who asks, the geek community's stance on fair use and copyright law. Only then will the rest of the world open their eyes and say to themselves "hey...that makes sense."

By the way, you probably already know this, but your two-line copyright law would have the added effect of causing some serious conflicts in some of the bigger media/content providers (Sony/Viacom and AOL-TW come immeditaely to mind), who own both the content and the playback device/software. Maybe this would lead to a few more antitrust cases and slow down the rate of mega-mergers as an added bonus?

Liz Heltman
Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Your piece on Rick Boucher really was spot on about geeks not having worked out their FOR muscles and constantly favouring their AGAINST side, though I'm afraid the condition also affects way too many others as well.

Keep up the good work.


Outstanding! Great article, and spot on; if our governmental systems are based upon law (and they are), blank refusal to engage in the process which produces the law hands the battlefield to the enemy.

The ONLY defences that the individual has against the big corps are laws passed by good and honest men like Boucher; more power to his arm, and to you for a masterly and concise explanation of why we need people like him in the States and here in the UK as opposed to lapdogs like Hollings in the US and the spammers' friend Cashman in the UK and Europe. Slashdot be damned; they've made a lot of noise, told each other how radically simon-pure they are, and accomplished nothing.

Nick Palmer
IT Manager

The point of explaining stuff is a good one, Liz. We all know our DMCAs, CPRMs - does your Mum? I mentioned telephone trees as a good way of disseminating this information. But maybe readers have better suggestions...

Mark Lively writes that we don't need a new law, because we already have one. "It was passed in 1890," he points out with a sigh.

But would such a law breach the First Amendment? Some of you think so, but I modestly disagree. The law wouldn't prevent a soul from owning a studio or a record label. In fact even the weakened cross-media ownership regulations in the US make similar demands. And you cite plenty of historical precedents where cross-media restrictions make perfect sense:-

This is *precisely* what happened in the late 50s and early 60s to the fim industry - they owned both the means of production (the studios) and in some cases, the means of distribution - the theaters. So, in Los Angeles, I remember the chain of "Fox" and "Warner" movie houses, now formerly owned by 20th Centory Fox
and Warner Bros.

So, the precedent has been set, if not eroded considerably in the last 10 years. (AOLTimeWarnerCNN comes to mind....)

After I finish this little note to you, I'm going to write tothe Good Congresman and offer my support.

Thanks for bringing him to my attention.

Lee Webber

We had a similar problem in France a few years ago (around the 97's-98's) when the socialist government threatened to pass a law which would forbid any major building company, or a private company which gets to work over major contracts with the government or public services (for building roads, sewerage systems, telecom networks, providing accomodation and so on) -- such a company should not be allowed to be the majority shareholder in a press business. This was in order to protect freedom of information.

That law was never passed. Simply because the aforementioned companies had lavishly funded the various candidates to parliament for their campaigns. And those MPs (both left and right-wing) simply did their best to have that law project cancelled.

And there we end up with the major TV channel in France, TF1, being owned by the Bouygues consortium, which also owns the biggest building companies in France, as well as major services providers for collectivities such as the Sodhexo company (provides meals for companies, administrations, also in the private jail business in the US). If you want to hear about bribery trials involving Bouygues, don't tune in to TF1.

Likewise, the infamous Vivendi, formerly known as "Générale des Eaux", owns not only the major water distribution networks in France, but also a wealth of companies providing various services to public institutions, administrations, communities. It's no use watching Canal+ or reading L'Express if you want to know more about the Vivendi problems these days : Vivendi actually owns them, along with a number of other TV companies and newspapers.

I think the matter of having reliable, unbiased, varied information media is as essential (if not more) as the right to fair use of bought CDs/DVDs.

Unfortunately, unless the Hollywood majors stop funding campaigning congressmen, I can't see your law being passed this hundred years...

Cheers & keep on with the good work,

Hervé Gourmelon

What you describe is vastly similar to the law in the UK concerning the owenership of Television and Radio broadcast companies. A private company cannot own both of these things in the same broadcast area. For example the radio station ScotFM was owned by Grampian & Border Television (which serve the north and south of Scotland respectively) -but was only broadcast in the Scottish central belt.

If it can work that simply here why can't they apply it to media?

David Grierson

If the will is there, nothing can stop it being applied. There is an election coming up in November, and the Boucher test can be applied to every candidate.

It's going to have some overturn some pretty entrenched interests, though. The tech-lib orthodoxy states that keeping Gubbment out of our computers is the imperative. Even more pressing is keeping Disney out of our computers: this is the most powerful lobby currently seeking to mandate technical standards, not the Government. The fear that new legislation will poison the well-springs of capitalism is looking as dated as a mullet haircut. Especially when you think how much it's done for us already... ®

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