We've noted for some time that one problem in the ongoing battle between Hollywood, technology companies and consumers over intellectual property issues is that consumers don't have a group as visible and as noisy as the RIAA or MPAA standing up for them. But for some time, Gary Shapiro and the Consumer Electronics Association have been the closest thing
to it, and CEA head Shapiro has proven himself an eloquent and intelligent point man on these issues. While his ability to talk sense
and stand up to Hollywood is pretty self-evident, perhaps the biggest sign that he's on the right track is how badly he manages to get under the skin of its shill groups like the RIAA. Four years ago, his speech on how the recording industry was shooting itself in the foot by using a scorched-earth legal policy elicited an angry and typically illogical response
from the RIAA's head, Cary Sherman. Shapiro and the CEA -- and a host of other groups -- a few weeks ago announced The Digital Freedom Campaign
, which "is dedicated to defending the rights of students, artists, innovators, and consumers to create and make lawful use of new technologies free of unreasonable government restrictions and without fear of costly and abusive lawsuits" (apparently that's something with which he's familiar). Hardly surprising that something like that would bother the RIAA, and once again, Sherman's gone all apoplectic
at how the campaign is making "an extremist interpretation of fair use to frighten and mislead consumers and policymakers". He chooses to single out Shapiro and the CEA, making this sound like it's more of a personal issue than anything.
Perhaps even more galling, though, is that he depicts the RIAA as fair use's biggest fan, and that Digital Freedom's assertion that the entertainment industry wants to restrict new technologies and devices is "knowingly false and incendiary rhetoric". Only on planet RIAA could the truth, in the form of the entertainment industry's long and storied history
of trying to get new technologies banned or restricted, be labeled "knowingly false". It's amazing that the likes of Sherman and the RIAA can maintain any sort of credibility on these issues. Ignoring the stupidity of not selling customers what they want
and trying to sue them into submission
, their hypocrisy is astounding. They're the biggest supporters of fair use, he says -- even though they act as if it doesn't exist
. They accuse the CEA of acting not out of consumers' interest, but out of electronics manufacturers -- when the RIAA is about the most self-serving trade group ever created. Finally, accusing the CEA and Shapiro of using incendiary rhetoric and lies, given the RIAA
and Sherman's track record
, is simply ludicrous. Sherman can beat this drum until he's blue in the face, but the fact remains that the entertainment industry's worst enemy is still itself, and its horribly misguided views on digital technology -- not Gary Shapiro and the CEA.