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“Independent” creation in the mainstream media

June 23, 2011

Right on cue, the Amen Chorus in the anti-copyright  blogosphere grabbed on to a thin lifeline from the New York Times (“Internet
Piracy and How to Stop It
”) and the Los  Angeles Times (“Policing  the Internet”), both of which were independently inspired to publish major  editorials about the “Protect IP Act” (S. 968)  within hours of each other.  The  Amen Chorus would have you believe that both of these august papers (often  trashed as Luddites by their new fans) were in their corner with headlines  about how the two papers have “come out against” Protect IP, and even opponents of the legislation in the Congress used these pieces as evidence that the  country was coming to its senses.

The Inevitable  Conclusion

Unfortunately for the anti-copyright crowd’s Amen Chorus, New York Times and Los Angeles Times did not stick to the talking points.  If anyone actually read the editorials, this would become quite clear.  Why did these papers abandon the script?  The talking  points require suspending reality and real journalists fear to tread where  others rush in.  When finally confronted with the financial wreckage of unchecked theft, even the most innovative must  acknowledge the inevitable conclusion.

The New York Times  acknowledges in its lead that “Online piracy is a huge business.”  The Los  Angeles Times says “Cutting off the financial lifeblood of  companies dedicated to piracy and counterfeiting makes sense.” The New York  Times says, “Commendably, the Senate Judiciary Committee is trying to bolster the government’s power to enforce intellectual property protections. Last month, the committee approved the Protect IP Act, which creates new tools to disrupt illegal online commerce.”

The Los Angeles Times says “The operators of the largest online advertising networks say they can [stop payments to foreign rogue sites], although they object to the bill’s proposal to let copyright and trademark owners seek injunctions against them.”

These are not exactly arguments that support the broad conclusions being foisted on the blogosphere.  However, both papers have some objections to the legislation,  particularly the ability of creators to protect themselves by private actions and both papers would have you believe that the legislation is about Hollywood versus innovation.  And yes, the New York Times had to bring up the “dancing baby” case on YouTube, which has very little to do with the goals of the Protect IP Act (and the more we find out about that case through disclosures of once-privileged documents, the more it seems like a vendetta against creators).

But both papers summarily ignore the most important people who are to be protected by Protect IP—creators who cannot afford the litigation, particularly the international litigation, to protect their life’s work.  In short—American workers.  I doubt that either the Los Angeles Times or the New York Times would question a working artist’s right to call 911 if their car is being stolen, but they seem to be very concerned about an artist being able to rely on their government to protect them if their life’s work is being stolen.

Don’t Quit Your Day  Job

Not only are these workers ignored, but you would not know from either the New York Times or the Los Angeles Times editorials that one of the main issues driving the Protect IP Act is saving jobs in a horrible economy.  I was so startled that neither paper mentioned this key fact that I did a word search on their web pages.  The only place the word “jobs” appears is on navigation bar links to job postings elsewhere on the sites.  Ironic, yet prophetic.  Don’t quit your day job.

The ugly truth behind the Protect IP Act is quite simple: Rogue sites position themselves in foreign countries where they steal products from U.S. creators and inventors, then use the Internet to distribute these stolen products to the lucrative U.S. market.
U.S. companies then facilitate these illegal distributions through search engines and advertising sales funneling money to everyone in the chain except the people who create the products.

The American Federation of Radio and Television Artists, the American Federation of Musicians, the Communication Workers of America, the Directors Guild of America, the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Nashville Songwriters Association International, the Screen Actors Guild and the  Songwriters Guild of America—as well as the AFL-CIO—all support Protect IP because at its core the bill is about saving American jobs.

How the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times could ignore this broad support of American workers is hard to explain. The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times got the story about half right, but by underreporting the facts they allow themselves
to be used by the Amen Chorus that has the story all wrong.

Working people know what time it is—it’s well passed time that the U.S. government upped the ante on foreign pirates stealing American jobs.

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