September 12, 2003

Where is the love?

Black Eyed Peas - Where Is The Love Lyrics. Shouldn't the Black Eyed Peas song go from this:

Overseas, yeah, we try to stop terrorism
But we still got terrorists here liviní
In the USA, the big CIA
The Bloods and The Crips and the KKK

to this:

Overseas, yeah, we try to stop terrorism
But we still got terrorists here liviní
In the USA, the big RIAA
The Bloods and The Crips and the KKK


UPDATE (17:17 EST): Check out two recent articles at -- they present the two sides to the debate. Although the letters are not all inclusive of all issues at hand, they do provide well thought out and interesting viewpoints.

The first letter was written by a software developer who worries about maintaining his livelihood as a developer and keeping his rights to sell and protect his work. The response to that letter came from the EFF.

I'd like to add a comment about the collective "tax" to pay the copyright holders to this discussion. The first letter argued that somehow, magically, the users had to "voluntarily" pay this tax -- i.e. he implied that voluntary action will never occur among P2P users. Well, let's just take a look at this argument. Do we honestly believe that paying income tax in this country (U.S.) is anything but voluntary? Although there may be repercussions and consequences to not pay income taxes and file income tax return, there is no way the government can physically force us to pay our taxes. There are not enough agents to enforce the tax law, and there never will be. However, the tax system survives primarily because good citizens (most people in the population) pay their taxes voluntarily. Why do good citizens do such a thing? Sure you can argue that there are no other alternatives, but really, we do such things because we "know" that it is the "right thing to do."

The RIAA fears that this "P2P/file-sharing tax" will not work mainly because of the arguments presented by the author of the first letter -- i.e. 1) users will never voluntarily pay it, 2) those who collect the funds (e.g. the government as the author of the first letter wants us to believe) will not pay certain copyright holders and hence lead to widespread censorship and marginalization of certain types of art, and 3) loss of privacy by P2P users. The second letter addresses the last two points, but is weak at rebutting the first point. So here is the crux of my argument. P2P users WILL pay the tax and they will do it because they know it to be the right thing to do. Honestly, what is the other alternative? Most of the music consumers out there (CD music purchasers) already pay somewhat of a "tax" burdened upon them by the industry anyway -- as evidence of this, the price of a music CD rose, while the actual physical cost to the companies to make such a CD dropped. What the company netted was used to pay/subsidize not only the artists involved in that CD, but other artists within that company as well. Sounds somewhat like a tax to me. But this is a tax system that current consumers are NOT willing to pay. The onus is now on the industry and the RIAA to come up with a better figure -- something more easily digestible by consumers. After all, consumers will pay for it if it is easily digestible -- just look at the recent success of Apple's iTunes as evidence for this.

So this leads us to wonder why the RIAA is so staunchily defending the industry's current "tax" system when obviously users (and artists) are clamoring for a more fair and just system? It's all about the money, of course. It is understandable why the RIAA does what it does; in other words, people understand their intentions and its end, it's just their means to the end that people are disgusted with. There is no need for the bullying tactics and mass lawsuits for people to understand that paying the collective "tax" to the copyright holder is the right thing to do. More can be done with good PR than with their current scheme of things. The RIAA cannot say, "We're suing everyone and anyone we want, to keep the current state of the industry until you people (you file sharers) come up with a better alternative." What they should be saying is "Let's all work together on this. We want a collective fund put together to pay for the copyright holders, so that you can enjoy the variety and freedom of the P2P file-sharing system." Only then, will users realize that paying this "tax" is the correct thing to do, and will voluntarily pay it. What other alternative do they have? To go back to the way it was before Napster, before P2P? I think not. If I knew that my money is fairly returned to the artist -- hopefully the artist is the copyright holder, but that is another issue itself -- I will gladly pay my end of the deal to ensure my P2P freedom.

Posted by johnvu at September 12, 2003 05:20 PM
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