The Battle To Change The Betamax Precedent

from the welcome-to-shortsighted-business-practices-101 dept

Fortune Magazine is running a long piece looking at the well-known RIAA case against Grokster and Morpheus, pointing out that the industry doesn't just want to ban file sharing networks, it wants to overturn the Betamax ruling entirely. The Betamax ruling, of course, is what most of these cases rely on. Nearly 20 years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that video tape machines were legal, so long as there were "substantial non-infringing uses" of the devices. Fortune, of course, is owned by AOL Time Warner, a member of the RIAA - though, that disclaimer is never mentioned in the article. If you read through it, the author clearly takes the side of the entertainment industry, accepting their views as fact throughout, even comparing file sharers to car thieves and the various P2P networks to drug dealers. He also tosses aside the argument made by many that if you look at the Betamax precedent, after that case was decided, it was videotapes that saved the movie industry. The reporter insists that wasn't true, and that some other compulsory licensing scheme would have been developed, and the industry would have been saved anyway. That's arguing a different point, of course. The industry argued against the Betamax claiming that if it were allowed, the industry would die overnight. That didn't happen. In fact, the opposite happened. Now the industry is making the same claims about file sharing. The historical perspective of the two cases makes this article an interesting read, but the bias in something that is supposed to be a news article, and not an opinion piece, (while lacking the ownership disclaimer) is unfortunate. The author of the article, Roger Parloff, also has a history of writing pro-DMCA articles (check Google). I have no problem with opinion pieces, where people can argue on the basis of those opinions. I have a lot more trouble with something being presented as fact, which is clearly opinion, instead.

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  1. identicon
    Roji Oommen, 15 Oct 2003 @ 1:18pm

    Re: Losing the Betamax decision could be a disaste

    I think it highly unlikely and extremely self-destructive for that to occur. Blank media, whether digital or analog, are far too prevalent (and useful) for the government to brand illegal.

    A far more likely scenario is some kind of copyright surcharge tacked onto things like broadband connections, CD/DVD-R, etc.

    In the end, artists should get compensated for what they create, and while the record industry business model is flawed and antiquated, they have the right to whatever recompense the market will bear.

    The underlying issue is that the price the market will bear has dropped considerably over the past several years. The largest cost component for a record company in producing an album is marketing expense. RIAA would be far better served in finding a way to reduce that cost component, bringing the cost of music more inline with what people are willing to pay.

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