The democratic veneer over the business of buying the legislation you want has never looked thinner. California's State Attorney General Bill Lockyer has been caught acting as a public relations front for Hollywood's big money copyright holders, only on the public's dime. Nominally, the role of Attorney General is to act on behalf of all citizens of California, including consumers and recording artists.
Lockyer called for a ban on peer-to-peer file sharing software, in a letter issued to other attorneys general, obtained by Wired. But earlier revisions of the Microsoft Word document indicate that the author was "stevensonv". This is believed to be one Vans Stevenson, the Motion Picture Association of America's senior vice president for legislative affairs, and one of its most visible lobbyists.
(This isn't the first time residual metadata left in a Word document has embarrassed its author. Two years ago, the UK Treasury accidentally revealed some of the deliberations behind the annual budget by failing to remove redacted portions from the public release. Few people are that Microsoft recently released a tool to remove metadata from Office documents.)
The pigopolists have been generous and consistent supporters of Bill Lockyer. His primary fund-raising vehicle, the Lockyer Committee, received four contributions from the MPAA in the 2002 Election Cycle totaling $4,500 and two from the RIAA, totaling $16,000. But these are complemented by corporate and private donations from the major studios, including The Paramount Pictures Group, Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., Warner Bros PAC, AOL Time Warner. Senior executives, such as Alan Horn and Howard Welinsky, respectively CEO and senior VP at Warner Brothers, have contributed too.
(This list is not exhaustive: for example, we haven't counted copyright-friendly affiliates such as law firm Manatt Phelps and Philips, which describes itself thus: "We are litigators, deal makers, lobbyists [our emphasis] and practitioners before the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, the U.S. Copyright Office, the FCC and the United States International Trade Commission." Spontaneously, 55 employees of Manatt Phelps and Phillips each decided to make contributions to Lockyer's 2006 campaign.
Lockyer has been in trouble over campaign contributions before. He was obliged to return $50,000 to Oracle to remove any impression of impropriety after the database giant was awarded a $95 million no-bid contract. Four officials were sacked as a consequences, but a recent investigation concluded that Lockyer hadn't acted illegally.
A Modest Proposal
It leaves a nagging question, however. Why not bring some technocratic rigor to the proceedings, and "disintermediate" the public officials and politicians completely? The lobbyists could simply be allowed to create their own legislation through some form of electronic voting; a much simpler and cleaner process that would remove any pretense of acting in the public interest. A few citizens itchy for the mechanical business of exercising choice could simply be wired up to vote in TV reality programs. A win-win for Hollywood, we suggest. reg;