Songwriters Guild Claims The Internet Makes It Impossible To Create Content

from the good-luck-with-that dept

Ah well. Last Friday we highlighted that the White House had posted the public comments on the IP enforcement plan, and pointed out a few of them. We had avoided the ones from most of the well-known lobbying groups because they tread on ground that had already been trampled to death, but a bunch of you have been submitting the filing from the Songwriters Guild of America, which takes ridiculous arguments to entirely new levels. Phillip pointed us to Ars Technica's take on the comment, highlighting the utterly ridiculous claim that bank robbery is less of an issue than copyright infringement, but the rest of the filing also raises some bizarre arguments as well.

Of course, the SGA, and its boss, Rick Carnes, are sort of famous for their over-the-top ridiculous claims that were debunked ages ago, but Carnes never seems to let up. In Carnes' world, the gov't owes songwriters a living, and the fact that the market has changed is of no concern to him, because he doesn't want to change, and the government should do everything possible to stop such market changes. Carnes/SGA also have also said that "network neutrality" means more piracy, that songwriters cannot write without copyright and, my favorite, that no technological change should ever be allowed to decrease royalties for songwriters.

So what's in this filing? Let's start at the beginning:
The current Internet delivery system is not tenable for creators and copyright owners.
Yes, you read that right. The current internet -- perhaps the greatest tool for content creation ever is not a tenable delivery system for content creators. Of course, that's easily debunked, because more content is being created today thanks to the internet and the fact that it's a very efficient delivery system. The fact that thousands upon thousands of content creators have embraced the internet, used it to help create, promote, distribute and share their music -- and as a way to build better, more efficient business models? According to Carnes and the SGA, that's "not tenable." Weird. Someone alert everyone else on the internet.
Digital piracy has almost completely destroyed the profession of songwriting, and is slowly destroying the music industry.
And yet, more songs are being produced and released every year than ever before and more money is being put into the music industry than ever before. That's a funny definition of "destroyed" and "destroying."

Of course, the crux of the Guild's argument is basically that music publishers no longer employ songwriters. Yes, and phone companies don't employ as many operators as they used to. Times change. Technology changes. Get used to it. Copyright law is not a law to require that there be a specific profession for songwriters. Copyright law is designed to promote the progress of science and the useful arts -- and if more music is being created than ever before, it appears that progress is being promoted, even if the profession of songwriting changes. But, why let facts get in the way of the claim that unauthorized file sharing will destroy the US economy:
Such piracy has deeply and materially harmed the songwriter community, but it also threatens the overall U.S. economy; the economic fate of U.S. copyright industries is critical to U.S. economic success, both domestically and in the global marketplace
Of course, he cites the already debunked claims about how much the "copyright industries" contribute to the US economy, totally ignoring the counter study that shows that exceptions to copyright law contribute much more to the economy, by using the very same methodology as the study the SGA cites. The SGA assumes, totally incorrectly, that the amount the so-called "copyright industries" contribute to society is entirely because of copyright law. And that's bunk. Most of it has nothing whatsoever to do with copyright. That the SGA has become so reliant on the crutch of copyright law and are unable to adapt is not the US gov't's problem.

The SGA then goes on to make the absolutely incredible suggestion that the FBI should be in charge of enforcing civil copyright infringement claims:
The FBI, or similar law enforcement agency, should be given the authority to investigate copyright infringement cases and pursue civil fines and penalties.
This is unprecedented. The FBI and the US gov't should not be involved in civil matters (matters between two private parties), but only criminal ones. This, by the way, is where the SGA makes the bizarre claim about bank robbers being less of an issue:
There are numerous economic crimes of much lesser magnitude (such as bank robbery) that are routinely and fully investigated, for which law enforcement agencies such as the FBI have significant resources. By contrast, online copyright piracy dwarfs bank robbery in causing economic losses, yet the FBI has limited criminal investigative interest and no civil mandate whatsoever to pursue this devastating economic harm. This inequity must change.
Except bank robbery is a crime. File sharing is not. It's a civil issue and a business model issue. And the arguments that the "losses" from file sharing are greater than actual robbery is simply not supported by the facts. As we noted, the recent GAO report should have put an end to those claims, but the SGA conveniently will ignore such things.

From there, the SGA goes on the attack against net neutrality again, insisting that net neutrality and unauthorized file sharing are linked hand-in-hand:
The Internet as currently constructed has facilitated digital copyright piracy that has led to the ruination of the music industry.
Other than the fact that the music industry is larger than ever before, it's difficult to see what point he's making.

There are ridiculous arguments and there are ridiculous arguments. Rick Carnes' filing with the IPEC goes beyond pretty much anything else out there to the level of being flat out incredible. It's incredibly backwards looking, wrong, and downright misleading.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2010 @ 8:15am

    Re: Songwriters Guild proven wrong with just one word

    Was Meant as a reply to #2

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