Thursday, January 7, 2010

Asshat of the Day - January 7th, 2010

Today's Asshat of the Day is a paired prize, since both recipients are interested in much the same stuff: Bono and a french governmental panel.

Let's start with Bono.

"A decade's worth of music file-sharing and swiping has made clear that the people it hurts are the creators — in this case, the young, fledgling songwriters who can't live off ticket and T-shirt sales like the least sympathetic among us." And he alleges that "rich service providers" are reaping "the lost receipts of the music business."

The musician claims the technology is available to track and prevent illegal downloading, noting efforts in China which limit its populace from freely accessing the internet.

Um. Words, failing me. First, no nation on the planet has had any luck curtailing filesharing. Your best bet is to go with the iTunes or Amazon download models and charge people on a per-song basis, while maintaining massive libraries in order to compete. Second... you're holding China up as a sparkling example of how the internet should be?

Next, the French:
How to help prop up the ailing music industry? Tax Google, suggests a new report commissioned by the French government.

The report, handed to Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand on Wednesday, says Google, Yahoo! and other Internet portals should be slapped with a new tax on their online ad revenues in France to fund the development of legal outlets for buying books, movies and especially music on the Internet.


The plan “seemed inevitable to us, if we want to maintain a certain pluralism in the culture world” and prevent the “endless enrichment of two or three world players who will impose their cultural formatting on us,” Patrick Zelnik, a record producer who helped lead the mission, was quoted as telling Liberation newspaper.

Again, there are few words. Taxing Google to repay recording artists for the theft of their music is like taxing the Yellow Pages to pay the families of victims of gun violence - because, after all, the bad guys look up pawn shops in the Yellow Pages to buy their guns! Moreover, as Mark Mulligan, an opponent to the idea, commented:

“Where does it start and stop? The argument is that Google has culpability for declining music revenues because people start searches for illegal files often by Google,” said Mark Mulligan, vice president of Forrester Research. But “what about the computers? Because without the computers people wouldn't be able to download. And then what about the electricity that powers the computer?”

Culpability only extends so far. Jack Thompson was a particularly egregious example of that, back in the day - suing Sony for producing the game system on which someone played a game that might be associated with a subsequent crime. This is no different. It's a transparent tax-grab from the people with the deepest pockets, to subsidize an industry which needs to reinvent itself, not depend on legislation to protect it.

Additionally, the proponents of the idea seem to be concerned about the dilution of France's culture through downloaded music (the majority of which, I imagine, is coming from the US). I'm sorry, monsieurs, but taxing Google ain't gonna stop it. People can acquire the same stuff through legitimate means - or through clients like Kazaa, Limewire, and other file-sharing programs, the way they do right now.

For trying to put shackles on something that has no limbs, Bono and this french panel share the title of AotD.

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