Legislators Continue to Bend Over for Culture Industry — Are We Surprised?

  • Legislators Continue to Bend Over for Culture Industry — Are We Surprised?
    Declan McCullagh offers up another well-researched article on a new bill to be introduced into Congress that would provide some protection to webcasters while butchering current Fair Use rights. The Berman-Coble bill would make it illegal to swap a digital copy of any copyrighted content with anyone, including giving an CD of mp3s to your friend or giving away a videotape of your favorite TV show.

    For those of you who keep hoping that Congress will churn out a law that preserves the Fair Use rights we’ve come to take for granted, and are wondering why Congress instead keeps chipping away at our right to manipulate our own cultural products, keep in mind this principle: Congress values dollars, not citizens. Sure, it may appear on the surface that we citizens elect our representatives in Congress, and that indeed is a formal part of the process. But how are those candidates chosen? How do we manage to find out about candidates? What does it take to create a candidate? Yep, cash money.

    A candidate makes it onto one of the major party tickets by pleasing those in power, and, increasingly, by having enough personal or other financial backing to launch a campaign to make it onto the ticket. And who funds that — you or me? Not directly, and not in any way that we maintain any sort of control.
    So, let’s apply this principle to the Copyright issue. Average citizen computer users would like to trade mp3s, CDs and movies with their friends, not for the purpose of piracy, but instead for the purpose of sharing something they mutually enjoy. Besides making a vote in the ballot box, what has average computer user done to get Mr. Representative and Ms. Senator elected, not much. On the other side, multi-billion dollar culture industry prefers to have strict control over all content they create, and are able to manufacture a piracy crisis, despite continually growing profits. What did multi-billion dollar culture industry do to get Ms. Rep and Mr. Senator elected? They donated thousands upon thousands of dollars of campaign funds, that’s what.

    Are those campaign funds a guarantee of election. No. But not having those campaign funds are near guarantee that you won’t get elected.

    Of course, this is common sense, right? The dirty clusterfuck relationship between lobbyists, industry and Congress is pretty well acknowledged by most sentient beings. Yet, we just keep clinging to the ideology of republican democracy, even as it crumbles at our feet.

    That doesn’t mean I think we should give up, or we shouldn’t pressure our Congresspeople or lobby for change. But I do mean to point out how perversely slanted the system is away from your’s and mine interests. We can try to continue swimming against the tide, but the tide usually wins.

    Things like civil rights and liberties, and fair use rights over our own culture cannot be taken for granted, and clearly are up for sale to the highest bidder in a political environment where voting is a pro-forma activity to legitimize the choice of the plutocracy. My only hope rests in that this full-scale attack by the highest moneyed class upon the cultural freedoms of the vast majority is one of the few things that seems to be waking people up to how their mental environment is being auctioned off before them.

    There are many tactics that can be used to combat this — some within the system, some without. I make no claim to knowing which are best and which will work. There are good arguments for and against trying to reform a system that has rotted away from the inside, I won’t try to convince you of the superiority of either. But my gut tells me that playing only by the rules of the system is like trying to win at casino blackjack. Certainly some folks do win, but most of the time you lose, and if you keep playing and bet big, you lose big. The setup is rigged so that the house always wins in the end. Regardless of what the Constitution supposedly guarantees us, this is not our house, and we are not set up to win.

    Independent, grassroots, DIY media provide some useful tools and strategies, but I’m not foolish enough to think they’re alone sufficient. We’ll need to rise up some way — resistance can be waged every day in easy ways, and it can be waged as a full-scale assault.Pick your way(s) and do it (them).

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