RIAA Trashes Its Legacy As A 1st Amendment Supporter By Cheering On Global Internet Censorship

from the crapping-on-your-legacy dept

It appears that many people don’t remember this, but the RIAA used to be a major force in protecting free speech and the First Amendment. It had many good reasons to do so, after all, since free speech is very important to all of the artists that the RIAA’s labels work with. Artistic expression — especially in the musical realm — has frequently come under attack by politicians and, for decades, the RIAA was actually a really important player in standing up for the First Amendment. See, for example, this 1992 article in the LA Times from then RIAA President Jason Berman, in which he lists out all the ways that the RIAA has been fighting censorship. Yes, these are all specific in protecting musicians, but they were some really important First Amendment arguments to be made in these areas:

  • In 1990, the RIAA kept lyric labeling legislation off the books in 22 states by implementing a state government relations program that became the RIAA’s second-highest-funded program, dedicated a full-time RIAA executive, consumed more than 80% of the association’s public relations efforts, mobilized grass-roots campaigns involving local retailers, artists, legislators and consumers and brought expert witnesses to testify before state legislatures.
  • Again in 1991, the efforts of the RIAA’s state government relations program defeated similar legislation in more than a dozen states.
  • This year, the program has been broadened by recruiting local legislative councils in 14 states resulting in defeated measures in New York, West Virginia, Arizona, Illinois and Missouri while the battle continues in Massachusetts, Louisiana and Michigan.
  • Throughout all of this activity, we’ve been a key player in opposing a federal bill creating third-party liability for sexual violence alleged to have been caused by music and other forms of entertainment.
  • We are a founding member and the principal funder for Rock the Vote, the music industry grass-roots organization aimed at defeating censorship and promoting participation by young people in the democratic process.
  • We formed the Coalition Against Lyric Legislation, an organization comprising more than 60 groups rallying to fight freedom of expression.
  • In addition to our amicus brief on behalf of 2 Live Crew, which raised the key issues leading to their exoneration in the 11th Circuit appeal, we contributed to the cost of the defense in the case, and have also committed legal and financial assistance to retailers in Nebraska and Florida.
  • Finally, we are proud to stand with the Washington Music Industry Coalition to seek a judicial declaratory ruling that the recently enacted erotic music statute is unconstitutional and should be stricken from the books.

And that’s just one article — the first I found via a quick Google search. If you were interested in these issues in the 1980s, the RIAA was very involved in protecting the First Amendment.

So it’s fairly ridiculous (if entirely expected) that the modern RIAA is destroying that historic legacy of protecting free speech by now cheering on global internet censorship. As we’ve discussed, Canada recently launched a horrific attack on free speech, by saying that it can issue injunctions blocking entire sites globally on mere accusations of infringement. Let’s repeat that: the Canadian court is saying that, even before a trial has determined if there is actual infringement, it can order sites (in this case Google) to block entire websites (not just pages involved in the infringement) — and that it can do so globally. As we pointed out, this precedent is horrifying. What will happen when China demands all stories about Tiananmen Square be blocked globally? Or what happens when Saudi Arabia or Iran demands that pages supporting democratic reforms or LGBTQ rights must be taken down globally?

And yet, rather than condemn an overly broad ruling that will lead to global censorship, the RIAA sullied its own historical legacy and cheered on this global censorship ruling, claiming that it was “a win.”

And, yes, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why the RIAA is so wishy-washy on free speech. Those earlier issues involved protecting musicians. Now, with the internet, it wants to stomp out free speech on the off chance that some of it might infringe copyrights and make RIAA members’ business models somewhat trickier. But that’s sad. A principled organization should stand up for what’s right — and not what’s politically expedient. And, really, this ruling will almost certainly come back to bite the RIAA as well. Not only will it lead to new, helpful, innovative platforms facing global censorship, is it that hard to believe that some countries may try to censor RIAA-connected artists, using this ruling as precedent?

These days, the bosses at the RIAA have got so much “piracy-on-the brain” that they seem completely unable to (1) stick to a principled position on the First Amendment or (2) see how cheering on global censorship might come back to bite them as well.

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Companies: equustek solutions, google, riaa

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Comments on “RIAA Trashes Its Legacy As A 1st Amendment Supporter By Cheering On Global Internet Censorship”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The RIAA, and MPAA for that matter, are all for free speech, so long as they are publishing and making a profit from it.

You forgot:

"While making sure anything that doesn’t make a profit is forbidden."

Yes, it’s implied by your statement, but it needs to be said outright. Copyright can’t function without censorship, and Modern Copyright depends not only on censorship, but lack of creative outlet as well. (After all, they can’t have someone creating a new song / book / game / etc. that they don’t make money from. That would cut into their "expected future profits".)

MyNameHere (profile) says:

I can tell you are angry

This is the sort of post you sort of wish you didn’t make. It’s clear that you are angry posting and not actually dealing with the reality of the situation.

RIAA isn’t promoting censorship. Well, they are if you fall for the silly notion that copyright violates your first amendment rights – or whatever free speech is called in Canada. The truth is that it does not, SCOTUS already told that guy you idolized but almost never mention any more.

Truth is the RIAA is cheering for what is good for it’s business, for it’s artists, and as a result, for the public.

I know you are angry. Please take the weekend off and have a beer (or whatever it is that you have) and relax. When you get the acceptance step of grieving, you will feel better.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I can tell you are angry

Truth is the RIAA is cheering for what is good for it’s business, for it’s artists, ….

Well it is cheering for what is good for it, and is has never been a good deal for artists, other than maybe as promotion for their concerts.

Hint, all artists that have stayed in the music business for decades have been those who rely on live performances for their income, and that is an experience that cannot be pirated.

MyNameHere (profile) says:

Re: Re: I can tell you are angry

No, it does not.

DMCA clearly has regulations in regards to false claims. Companies (such as Google) have chosen not to fight these claims, which is their own failing in the matter. They have also chosen to remove content directly rather than expose the actual producer of the content to direct legal responsibility. There is nothing in DMCA that requires immediate removal, that is a choice made by those who receive the notices.

The vast majority of DMCA notices are valid on their face. There are exceptional cases where DMCA is used in a clearly illegal fashion by people trying to block content they do not like, that is a sad situation.

Google’s own transparency report shows 2.49 billion DMCA notices with 90% being “URLs approved”. Rejected and invalid URLs make up less than 4% of that number (duplicates are higher at 5%).

My comment before has been “voted” into hiding by Techdirt users. Your pithy but incorrect comment gets upvoted. Gotta love that!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: I can tell you are angry

Companies (such as Google) have chosen not to fight these claims, which is their own failing in the matter.

Companies like Google do not have standing to fight the claims as they are not the copyright holders or posters of the content that is being taken down. Apart from costs imposed on them, that is the evil in making third parties a target for notices, they do not have the information needed to fight a claim, and they can be sued for not acting on a claim.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: I can tell you are angry

DMCA clearly has regulations in regards to false claims.

‘regulations’ that are never enforced might as well not exist. There is effectively no penalty for bogus DMCA claims. If you’ve got more than a handful(or even one, that would be a good start) example of a clearly bogus DMCA claim that resulted in the one making it facing any serious punishment I’d love to see it, because the only one I’m aware of was due to a default judgement.

Google’s own transparency report shows 2.49 billion DMCA notices with 90% being "URLs approved". Rejected and invalid URLs make up less than 4% of that number (duplicates are higher at 5%).

Compare that to this report which found that almost literally all DMCA claims made through their ‘Trusted Copyright Removal Program’ were bogus, and it seems it might not be quite as cut and dried as ‘most notices are valid’.

My comment before has been "voted" into hiding by Techdirt users. Your pithy but incorrect comment gets upvoted. Gotta love that!

Yeah, I’m sure that has nothing to do with the snarky/dismissive ‘you mad bro?’ tone of your comment. No, clearly people just didn’t like the ‘truth’ of your comment and reported it rather than address it.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: I can tell you are angry

“Companies (such as Google) have chosen not to fight these claims”

…because they’re a 3rd party platform who is neither the copyright holder of the content being addressed nor the copyright registration office. They can’t double-check every single claim to see the person filling in the form is lying, nor can they individually liaise with every user to try and mediate before taking action. They take the action that allows them to comply with the legal requirements against them, which is that unless the notice is obviously incorrect, they comply until the target of the notice files a counterclaim.

But, of course, in your deranged mind the fact that they’re not acting in ways beyond their remit, their legal responsibility or their means somehow translates into failure.

“Rejected and invalid URLs make up less than 4% of that number (duplicates are higher at 5%).”

Yes, but that doesn’t mean they were correctly targeted, the sender of the notice wasn’t guilty of perjury by sending a false claim or that it was valid in any other way. All it means is that whatever bot the RIAA/MPAA programmed was able to fill a form in correctly. It validates nothing.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Music in general is doing great actually, with massive amounts of new content coming out on a regular basis. The sales of plastic discs may have taken a hit, but pretty sure more people are able to make money from their music than ever before with the various new platforms that have sprung up allowing them to bypass the parasitic gatekeepers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I was referring to the quality of mainstream music that is mostly played on TV and radio, dominated by the copyright cartel. ‘Commercial music’ (e.g., any shitty song with a videoclip) is well and alive, the big problem is the lack of substance, meaning, passion for music. They sure love money more than music.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

So, when you said “music is dead”, you actually meant “a certain subset of music that’s dominant on some types of media does not match my personal tastes”. How insightful.

Fortunately, the RIAA is a long way from having monopolised media, and there’s a huge number of avenues to get non-mainstream music if what’s on the TV and radio doesn’t meet your standards. Hell, thanks to the internet you’re not even restricted to the radio that’s in your local area, let alone restricted to what a major label marketer wants to sell you this week.

If you want to promote non-mainstream music, do that. But don’t say “music is dead” as if that means there’s nothing of worth out there. Support and promote the music you think is worthwhile instead. Turning a stranger on to one of your favourite bands will be much more valuable and effective than pretending the entire medium is worthless.

Eo Nomine says:

Mike, the RIAA didn’t just cheer on the decision. The RIAA (via IFPI & Music Canada) *actively intervened* in the proceedings to support Equustek, expand on their arguments and downplay the free speech concerns. Here is the factum: http://www.scc-csc.ca/WebDocuments-DocumentsWeb/36602/FM065_Interveners_International-Federation-of-the-Phonographic-Industry-et-al.pdf

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