America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilisation in between. - Oscar Wilde
THE CHAIRMAN of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has penned an opinion in the New York Times in which he moans about the opposition to the SOPA and PIPA legislation.
Chairman and CEO Cary Sherman made his feelings clear in the opinion headlined "What Wikipedia Won't Tell You", saying that the web firms held back the RIAA crafted legislation by being untruthful and overstating their case.
"Policy makers had recognized a constitutional (and economic) imperative to protect American property from theft, to shield consumers from counterfeit products and fraud, and to combat foreign criminals who exploit technology to steal American ingenuity and jobs," he wrote.
"They knew that music sales in the United States are less than half of what they were in 1999, when the file-sharing site Napster emerged, and that direct employment in the industry had fallen by more than half since then, to less than 10,000," he claimed.
He argued that in the face of these job and economic losses policy makers set about creating rules, which, although he admitted they might not have been perfect, were at least something.
"While no legislation is perfect, the Protect Intellectual Property Act (or PIPA) was carefully devised, with nearly unanimous bipartisan support in the Senate, and its House counterpart, the Stop Online Piracy Act (or SOPA), was based on existing statutes and Supreme Court precedents," he added. "But at the 11th hour, a flood of e-mails and phone calls to Congress stopped the legislation in its tracks. Was this the result of democracy, or demagoguery?"
According to Sherman it was the latter, and he said that the internet protests were based on misinformation, and not real consideration of their impact.
"Misinformation may be a dirty trick, but it works," he said. "Consider, for example, the claim that SOPA and PIPA were 'censorship,' a loaded and inflammatory term designed to evoke images of crackdowns on pro-democracy Web sites by China or Iran."
Firms including Google and Wikipedia spread this information, he added, through highlighting protests and bandying the word "censorship" about. Sherman accused internet firms of spreading misinformation and exploiting their size and influence, implying that you could never accuse entertainment industry corporations or cartel lobbyists of that.
"The hyperbolic mistruths, presented on the home pages of some of the world's most popular Web sites, amounted to an abuse of trust and a misuse of power," he added.
Projecting somewhat, he claimed, "When Wikipedia and Google purport to be neutral sources of information, but then exploit their stature to present information that is not only not neutral but affirmatively incomplete and misleading, they are duping their users into accepting as truth what are merely self-serving political declarations."
This muddied the debate, said Sherman, and he wailed that the internet firms ruined what could have been two very good bills. He suggested that they might like to come forward and work on other rules to help stop America from sliding into an entertainment industry recession.
"Perhaps this is naïve, but I'd like to believe that the companies that opposed SOPA and PIPA will now feel some responsibility to help come up with constructive alternatives. Virtually every opponent acknowledged that the problem of counterfeiting and piracy is real and damaging. It is no longer acceptable just to say no," he said.
"We all share the goal of a safe and legal Internet. We need reason, not rhetoric, in discussing how to achieve it," he concluded. µ
Sign up for INQbot – a weekly roundup of the best from the INQ