RIAA – More Legislative Mischief

obey.jpgIt turns out that bipartisanship is alive and well in Washington, but for all the wrong reasons. Flannel-shirted man o’ the people Lamar Alexander and Dianne Feinstein, who should know better, are doing the RIAA’s bidding again.

This time, it’s a revival of the presumed-dead PERFORM act. Also sponsored by Joe Biden and Lindsey Graham, SB 256 would (via ARS Technica):

force satellite, digital, and Internet radio providers (but not over-the-air radio) to implement measures designed to restrict the ability of listeners to record audio from the services … If the name of the bill sounds familiar, it should. The bill was originally introduced in April 2006 with the support of the RIAA. It died in committee, but the senators are hopeful that the bill will pass this time around.

On the other hand, New Hampshire Senator John Sununu just introduced a bill that would forbid broadcast flags of any sort – technology which is at the heart of PERFORM. In the up-is-down, black-is-white world of Washington, I’m siding with the Republican logic of free markets:

“The FCC seems to be under the belief that it should occasionally impose technology mandates,” Sununu said in a statement. “These misguided requirements distort the marketplace by forcing industry to adopt agency-blessed solutions rather than allow innovative and competitive approaches to develop. We have seen this happen with the proposed video flag, and interest groups are pushing for an audio flag mandate as well. Whether well-intentioned or not, the FCC has no business interfering in private industry to satisfy select special interests or to impose its own views.”

PERFORM is corporate welfare of the worst kind. Record companies can’t seem to come up with a way to grow their business that doesn’t involve a lawsuit or a technological straightjacket. Our government has no business keeping them in business. Music won’t die if RIAA collapses; anyone who thinks otherwise is delusional. More likely, they’re a record company executive.

In an engaging article in this month’s Fast Company, someone aligned with musicians – you know, the people who actually PLAY the stuff the guys in the suits sell – made this observation:

“We’re heading to a do-it-yourself world where artists will be taking more control of their careers,” says Michael McDonald, John Mayer’s manager. Or as[John] Legend puts it: “In the not-too-distant future, this could mean you won’t need a label anymore. That’s the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.”

If RIAA’s hand isn’t in that pot, tough.

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