When Making Something Up, Use Specific Numbers

December 29th, 2005  |  Published in old and busted

How TV shows on DVD suffer from music licensing (with a slight edit from me):

> A hard-headed nickel-and-dime mentality is edging out an intelligent, respectful attitude to the fair use allowances in the US Constitution, Article 1, Section 8 potential paying customers. Do we need any more evidence that the entertainment industry could use a smacking with a huge clue bat?

Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution has this to say about copyright:

> The Congress shall have power […] To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;

There’s really nothing in there about “fair use.” That’s a concept that turns up in the laws congress makes as it goes about promoting “the progress of science and useful arts,” and that gets hammered out in the back and forth between our judicial and legislative branches over time.

I’m as cheesed off as the next guy that I can’t get original WKRP episodes on DVD thanks to the newly discovered “value” of all that licensed music. The author of the item linked above might well be (and I think he is) correct to say sales of music featured on WKRP would go up as people heard the tiny snippets of the songs on an episode and ran out to get the track. In fact, I bet a package of “WKRP Hits” sold on CD and over iTMS by the season would do pretty well for a certain set.

That doesn’t make hand-waving about non-existent constitutional fair use allowances any better, though. It just sounds like outhouse lawyering.

I’ll dangle this:

The only way to “beat” the entertainment industry’s extortion is to quit subsidizing it financially and socially.

The former is easy: You quit trooping down to Best Buy and picking up entire seasons of your favorite shows on DVD, you stop buying media products in general, and you don’t even bother renting.

The latter is hard, because even if you’re downloading an unpurchased copy from Limewire or borrowing from the library, you’re contributing to the general aura of desirability the entertainment industry’s riding. For every person who says a particular movie is good enough to borrow from the library if not buy, several more will say “but the library’s inconvenient … I’ll grab one of 20 copies at Blockbuster, or buy it cheap.”

Barring a general and widespread culture of resistance, and given a legislature that understands arguments about money and bottom lines better than it understands anything else, we’re stuck.

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