Reading Boing Boing this morning, I was flabbergasted as I read the comments of Marybeth Peters, the United States Register of Copyrights. The circular logic and specious reasoning she employed made me question if she has the intelligence required to hold such a position. She raises the ugly specter of terrorism when she says, "although the information is sketchy at best, there have been a series of rumored ties between pirating operations and terrorist organizations." This supposed link is used to bolster the claim that we need more draconian Digital Restrictions Managament (DRM) to prevent casual copying. Yet, it is well known that any DRM can be circumvented given enough time, so piracy rings will still flourish; conversely, those exercising their fair-use rights or committing casual copyright infringement spend no money to do so and obviously do not provide any funds for terrorism. In light of this, perhaps Ms. Peters can explain how extending the reach of copyright would affect any rumored terrorism funding. Ms. Peters true feelings are perhaps best understood by this statement, "While it is not realistic to expect to eliminate all piracy, I do believe that we can continue to improve the global situation, to the benefit of authors and right-holders here in the United States and throughout the world." Evidently, she does not feel any need to protect the rights of consumers to watch or listen to their media. She further insinuates that attempts to make U.S. copyright laws more balanced are making it easier for criminal piracy rings to operate abroad.
It is hard to understand how some of the recent extensions to copyright control could possibly benefit citizens. For example, retroactively extending the length of copyrights had no consumer benefit; it prevented thousands of copyrighted works from entering the public domain. While this artificial monopoly has helped the media companies profit, it has not led to the creation of any new 75-year old books, movies or music.
Meanwhile, the large media companies continue to funnel money to politicians through the RIAA and MPAA. This money buys influence. This influence has led to a continual increase in the control of copyright owners and a corresponding decrease in the rights of citizens to watch and listen to their media. When congress passes laws contrary to the publc interest, one must examine what leads to this action. It seems apparent that the corporate money congress receives from the MPAA and RIAA members has encouraged them to pass laws that benefit only those companies. To combat this, citizens that want fair copyright laws need to emulate their corporate rivals. While copyright reform is in the public interest and would probably be widely supported with more information, it is not an issue that most people care a great deal about. However, there is a community of several hundred thousand citizens that do care a great deal about these issues. If these Americans could be coordinated to raise money, several million dollars would be raised to use towards supporting congressmen who believe in copyright reform. So that is what we will do.
This is a call to arms. I pledge $100 annually for 10 years to a political action committee (PAC) that works solely to reform copyright regardless of political affiliation, provided they collect a minimum of $1,000,000 in pledges for the first year. This PAC will work solely to change laws through the legislative system, but helping to elect sympathetic lawmakers, and not through the courts. The leaders of this PAC should be respected and recognized within the copyright reform community; reformers like Mark Cuban or Cory Doctorow would immediately give the PAC credibility and visibility. If we feel that copyright reform is important, it's time to put our money where our mouth is. How much is it worth to you to keep your TiVo legal, or your iPod? Copyright is a legislative creation and requires a legislative solution, and the best way to do that is a PAC. We need a lot of people to make this work, but if it can't be done right it might not be worth doing at all. Please join us.