The Education of Senator Wyden: Don’t break the artists…You can’t get away with the old RIAA Booga Booga Booga or that you’ll make it up on volume

Senator Ron Wyden revealed his well intentioned but startling lack of education about the dynamics of the opposition to the Internet Radio Fairness Act during his speech at the Future of Music Policy Summit yesterday, and it started with more of the same old whine:

You’ll hear the record labels oppose this legislation, spend lots of money saying – number one – Western civilization is going to end if we have fairness in these rates.  And they’re going to offer all sorts of arguments for why royalty rate discrimination is okay.  I personally think that if the royalty rates are lower, the internet broadcasting market becomes larger, and that’s a strategy for creating more income for artists, and more music choices for consumers, and a broader array of music.  And that sounds to me like a worthy outcome.

This is, of course not what is happening and it is definitely not what happened to Senator Wyden yesterday.  It was artists who complained about his version of “trickle down innovation”, not the record companies.   In fact, there was not one major label on the IRFA panel–his main opposition came from Patricia Polloch of the American Federation of Musicians and David Lowery of Cracker and Camper Van Beethovan.

The artists don’t want his bill.  Senator Wyden’s speech writers wrote a speech for him to give in 1999.  It does not play in 2012.

He also committed the fatal error of trying to obfuscate the really nasty parts of his bill–the censorship part and the court packing part.  David Lowery called this “newspeak” referring to George Orwell’s iconic 1984–Big Tech and Big Media want to get control over these pesky artists and put them in their place–sue them for antitrust conspiracy if they speak up and completely capture the Copyright Royalty Judges–what David Lowery called “agency capture”.

Senator Wyden said that SOPA and PIPA had the laudable goal of fighting piracy, so everyone expected–perhaps naively–that Senator Wyden would be coming with serious legislation that addressed this issue in a serious way.

Instead, we got legislation designed to break the artists.

Whether it’s just irresponsible or a calculated ploy, it still stinks just as badly and I don’t think there’s a way to “fix it” as they say in Washington.  It’s a lot harder to get language out of a bill than to put language into a bill.  That’s why the whole thing must go, and the Gang of Four and their cohorts in the so-called Internet Radio Fairness Coalition need to go back to the rate court like they did to get the rates they crowed about in 2009 but don’t like now that companies like Pandora have had a public offering.

You know, the rate court that they tried to gut.

PS If you want to voice your opinion on IRFA, Senator Ron Wyden has a comment page on his Senate website click here.