Doublespeak, Pt. 2
Commentary by K. Matthew Dames, executive editor.
I have found two more examples of copyright doublespeak that I’d like to analyze.
The first is from a WashingtonPost.com article that the paper posted to its Web site on Nov. 3, and involves Big Content’s use of the word “harmonization.” According to my dictionary, “harmonize” means “to bring into harmony, accord, or agreement.” Within the context of the copyright debate, “harmonization” means the process by which intellectual property laws of different nations and sovereignties are made consistent in order to facilitate transnational commerce and strengthen international intellectual property protection. An analogous term is “standardization.”
The word seems innocuous, and suggests cooperation and conciliation. The word certainly does not suggest coercion. But as with any term favored by Big Content, things — including words — are not what they seem.
The Post article describes an effort by Big Broadcasting to secure new copyright protections for video they transmit over the Web, even if that content is in the public domain. In the article, Post writer Jonathan Krim describes the National Association of Broadcasters’ efforts to get the bill passed. “[NAB senior associate general counsel Benjamin F.P. Ivins] and his allies, including the federal government, see the treaty as a simple effort to standardize international laws on what they call ‘signal theft.’ In certain Caribbean countries, for example, cable programming has been effectively intercepted and pirated by rival broadcasters.” (Emphasis added.)
Here’s what “harmonization” and “standardization” really mean: if a country wants to do trade with the United States, it must adopt laws that are consistent with the United States’ intellectual property laws. “Harmonization” suggests a mutual, communal effort by all parties involved to create some level of consistency. In fact, the U.S. routinely leverages its economic power in trade negotiations to force “developing” countries (like the Caribbean countries that are intercepting cable signals) to unilaterally change its laws so that those laws are consistent with the United States’ laws.
Given a “carrot-stick” conundrum proposition, Caribbean countries choose the “carrot” of changing their intellectual property laws to become virtually identical to those passed by the United States. The practical result is that instead of each country having its own distinct laws on intellectual property, the United States’ intellectual property law effectively becomes the world’s intellectual property law. This is not bilateral harmonization; it’s unilateral economic thuggery.
The second doublespeak example I want to identify is included in a Slate article authored by Adam L. Penenberg. Penenberg’s article is on digital rights management, an area which is a doublespeak treasure trove. Since Penenberg does such a good job of identifying the doublespeak, I’ll just quote him.
Companies like Apple claim that digital rights management—”digital restrictions management” to critics—is a tool to dampen the threat of piracy, which the record industry claims has cost it billions in revenues. But DRM also locks consumers into using their technologies over those of competitors. The term “FairPlay” is a classic example of technological doublespeak. Since Apple sells about 80 percent of legal music downloads in the United States, FairPlay effectively stunts competition and consumer choice.
The copyright debate is chock full of doublespeak material, so I will continue to analyze it as I find it. More chuckles are sure to come.
Adam L. Penenberg. Digital Rights Mismanagement. Slate. Nov. 14, 2005.
Jonathan Krim. Weighing Webcasters’ Rights to Content. WashingtonPost.com. Nov. 3, 2005.
Consumers Digital Rights.
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