EFF Seeks Position As Public’s Copyright Guardian

CommuniK Commentary by K. Matthew Dames

If you’re a regular CopyCense reader, you may have noticed that we stopped posting or writing about any story about lawsuits the Recording Industry Association of America commences against consumers for alleged copyright infringement through file sharing. Since we’ve already addressed this issue, we’ll let you revisit it on your own.

Apparently, the Electronic Frontier Foundation thinks these lawsuits are as asinine as we do, but I have a problem with they way it has decided to remedy this problem. On the surface, EFF says it is sponsoring a petition to Congress that asks the legislative body to stop RIAA’s lawsuit campaign. Let’s forget for a minute the details about whether Congress has such power, whether its members would invoke that power, or whether 100,000 names on a petition would speak louder to members of Congress than a $100,000 campaign contribution.

But what EFF is doing under the guise of a petition really is different from facilitating a request to members of Congress. In fact, what EFF really is doing is seeking to promote itself as the public’s copyright guardian. The pertinent “petition” language reads.

We oppose the recording industry’s decision to attack the public, bankrupt its customers and offer false amnesty to those who would impugn themselves. We call instead for a real amnesty: the development of a legal alternative that preserves file-sharing technology while ensuring that artists are fairly compensated. In signing this petition, we formally request that the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), as representatives of the public interest, be included in any upcoming hearings regarding the proper scope of copyright enforcement in the digital age. (Emphasis added.)

I have a problem with allowing EFF to speak for me on any issue, including copyright. While I continue to wonder when EFF is going to simplify its presentation of copyright issues in a way that resonates with the average Joe and Jane, generally we applaud what EFF does and how it does it. But at no point am I willing to let the organization represent me as Joe Q. Public. Nothing against EFF, but I’m unwilling to cede that responsibility to any person or entity.

Further, promoting the organization’s importance and relevance in Congressional negotiations under the guise of a democratic “petition” strikes me as sneaky and unseemly. I have seen, signed, and supported other EFF petitions before — I think their petition form’s layout, coding, and ease of use are exemplary — but to the best of my recollection, none of the others sought to promote the organization as “representative[] of the public interest.”

There are dozens of individuals and organizations besides EFF that have spent (and continue to spend) time, energy, and money seeking an equitable balance in domestic and international intellectual property matters; EFF is but one of them. Why should it be entrusted to represent the public any more or less than any other organization or individual in this fight?

For these reasons, I cannot support EFF’s “petition.”

EFF Deep Links. Petition Congress to Oppose RIAA Lawsuits, Forge Better Way Forward. April 27, 2006

See also:

Electronic Frontier Foundation. A Better Way Forward: Voluntary Collective Licensing of Music File Sharing. (.pdf) No date.

ArsTechnica. RIAA Crying Wolf All the Way to the Bank. April 6, 2006.

CopyCense. Rehashed Press Releases. Dec. 19, 2005.

CopyCense™: K. Matthew Dames on the law, business, and technology of digital content. A business venture of Seso Digital LLC. CopyCense and CommuniK. are trademarks of Seso Digital LLC.

Written by sesomedia

05/03/2006 at 09:00

Posted in Uncategorized

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