To The Honorable Nancy Pelosi,
This morning I read about Chairman Conyers’ proposed PRO IP act, and as others in the technology industry have, I lowered my head sadly. While I only recently became an American citizen, it seems quite clear to me that this is yet another sad sign of how our government continues to lose its way. Instead of taking the clear, high road and working to protect the needs of its citizens, the government is instead taking the low road and protecting the needs of big business. I call this the low road as it is the only one paved with the campaign contribution dollars represented by big media.
While there are some good intentions described in the external “spin” of the bill, it seems clear that it is nothing more than a vehicle to enable the 5 major media companies to further harass and persecute Americans. This is an unfortunate trend that Congress seems to follow, and I write this letter to implore you to try to get deeply involved, learn about, and ultimately break.
Historically, Congress never used to side with major media companies. Throughout the 20th century, our leaders addressed new issues based on the wants and needs of the American people. Lawsuits have emerged over virtually every technology innovation as it pertained to media and content, from vinyl through compact disk. In virtually every case, Congress always put the pressure on the traditional companies to learn how to grow and change based on new technologies. That is, however, until the emergence of the broadband Internet and the MP3 music compression format.
For some reason, still not clear to me, these two technologies together caused the government to effectively switch teams. Instead of protecting the wants and needs of the many by forcing big media firms to evolve and adapt to the new technologies, the laws sprung up to protect these companies and allow them to live in the older world. PRO IP is yet another example of such laws.
It is bad enough that we have so few major media companies. It is bad enough that they can exert financial pressure to dominate the movie theaters and the airwaves. It is bad enough that they control the enormous quantities of media we as Americans consume. One could argue oligopolies, but that is a big enough topic on its own, and frankly, individual creativity combined with the distribution power of the Internet is finally allowing people to slowly retake control of the media they consume.
Historically it is this effort, individual creativity, that our government has helped protect and thrive. Not the demands of the rich and famous. It is in fact ironic that the major media companies of today were built on the shoulders of enabling laws, not crippling laws.
Now truth be told, I am no legal expert, nor am I an expert in copyright. But I am pretty good at common sense. Common sense tells me that the maximum penalty for transmitting an MP3 file should not be over 1000-fold the maximum penalty of shoplifting a CD from a store. Common sense tells me that if over 80 MILLION people are transmitting files to each other, there is something wrong with our system that makes such an activity illegal.
To be pointedly clear, I very much believe that record labels, TV studios, networks, producers, actors, writers, and everyone else involved in media production deserves their fair share, or even more than their fair share. I do not believe that these peoples’ livelihoods should be infringed simply because the American public is doing a lot of free downloading. What I do believe, on the other hand, is that when faced with new business challenges that technology innovation has spurred, these companies should be forced to meet these challenges head-on. They should not be sheltered and coddled by Congress, with their proverbial heads in proverbial ostrich holes.
I highly recommend that you take this issue up personally. I further recommend that you and your staff become familiar with the book Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig, a gentleman who understands these topics with much greater depth and clarity than I ever will. My government is elected to protect its citizens and our rights, not to protect big business. There will always be big business, and as the multi-hundred-billion-dollar Google has proven, there will always be new big business. Congress is not protecting newspapers as they are faced with massive business challenges due to technology. The same should be true in big media.
Jeremy Toeman, concerned American
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