This week, litigious anti-competitive copyright goons* from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and the National Association of Music Publishers (NAMP) attacked the “extremist, radical anti-copyright agenda” of Creative Commons, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Knowledge, and other groups. (We can consider Canadian MP James Moore’s similar use of “radical extremist” as part of this attack, though he’s not a copyright goon, but one of their henchmen.) The talking points being circulated aren’t new (and many are quite tiresome) but the vitriol has been turned up to eleven. Don’t be surprised to see this continue.
NAMP’s president David Israelite ended his screed, “The New Enemy,” with a “top ten” list which he calls “the anti-copyright agenda.” I was gonna fisk it, but Mike Masnick beat me to it, and I doubt I could do any better. Have a look. As he points out, Israelite’s repeated choice of “enemy” is telling, and the evidence for the drastic action being proposed very thin. Gigi Sohn’s response to a similar rant in a fundraising letter from ASCAP also hits it right on the head–why are these groups obsessed with punishing file sharers and infringers? Why not focus on helping artists earn a living?
But despite the clear preference for compensation over punishment, groups that claim to represent artists like ASCAP continue, like their big corporate colleagues, to advocate for the latter, and seem completely bereft of ideas for promoting the former. Why? Probably because the old business model suits them just fine: they collect millions of dollars of royalties on behalf of captive musicians and (mostly) pay them. In a digital world, Do It Yourself is the mantra, with Creative Commons being one of the tools that allows artists to do so. Where does that leave middlemen like ASCAP? Nowhere.
That Creative Commons would be objectionable dovetails with the compulsory licensing at the heart of ASCAP’s business model: how dare anyone opt out of our state-sponsored monopoly, or suggest that anyone else do so!
*No, this isn’t my typical argumentative approach. But it fits here. If they are going to characterize Creative Commons, EFF, etc. as “radical extremists”–a millimeter away from saying “anti-American terrorist”–then I get to play, too.
Update 7/14: Larry Lessig responds.