Death, Taxes, and the RIAA

The recording industry is doing the Tennessee Waltz right now, thanks to a bill recently signed by Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen that commits nearly $10 million of taxpayer money to fighting music piracy on state campuses.

As Jon Newton at P2Pnet points out, the recording industry not only wrote and guided this bill through the legislature, RIAA president Mitch Bainwol was there at the signing.

Wired's David Kravitz notes that Tennessee will spend $9.5 million on hardware, software, and the salaries of 21 staffers whose job is to monitor campus networks for signs of illegal file swapping. Meanwhile, the state faces a $44 million budget shortfall and has been laying off teachers.

In the land where Elvis is still king, reading and writing take a back seat to riding shotgun for the record companies.

Why should non-Tennesseans care about what happens there? Because this is something the RIAA and MPAA lobbyists have tried to pass on a national scale, but have so far been thwarted.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Richard Esquerra writes:

While the entertainment industry failed to get "hard" requirements for universities in the Higher Education Act passed by Congress earlier this year, the RIAA succeeded in Tennessee (and is pushing in other states) with this provision that gives Big Content the ability to hold universities hostage through the use of infringement notices..... Unfortunately, the entertainment industry lobby seems to be succeeding, bit-by-bit, in persuading legislators to coerce universities into buying "infringement suppression" technologies -- expensive technologies that won't stop file sharing on campus networks.

Once again, the RIAA chooses to alienate its best customers (or those who would be its best customers, if they weren't already alienated) than change its business practices to accommodate how people obtain and share music in the 21st century. They want Uncle Sam to enforce it, and you and me to pay for it.

On the list of state and federal enforcement priorities, protecting a dying industry's bottom line should be down around, say, making sure people in supermarkets don't take two coupons when the sign says "please take just one."

But over the last eight years the recording and movie industries have found friendly ears in Washington DC and state capitols, where tech naive legislators dine at the lobbyists' trough.

Will the new administration be any different? In today's Beltway Bailout Bonanza, where no billionaire is left behind, I'm not hopeful.

Talk about a change we need.

Do you think taxpayers should pay for anti-piracy technology? Post your thoughts below or email me here: dan (at) dantynan (dot) com.

Dan Tynan spends two hours a day grumbling about the RIAA. The rest of the time he tends his blogs, Culture Crash and Tynan on Tech.

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