recreate_astroturf“Balanced” copyright is really just code for killing it

The “ReCreate Coalition” is a jazzy, and kinda warm and fuzzy sounding name isn’t it?  Yep, our favorite anti-artist groups are at it again, morphing into yet another anti-copyright potpourri whose mission is to demolish copyright in the name of protecting innovation or, as their press release glibly trumpets: “diverse coalition launches to promote balanced copyright law, creativity and free speech.”

Nuala O’Connor, formerly of Amazon and Google’s DoubleClick, and now President & CEO of the Center for Democracy & Technology, an organization that’s included in this phony coalition, employs a careful construct to make its mission appear honorable in the press release announcing the coalition’s formation:

The internet has empowered everyone online to be a creator, opening up new audiences and markets for innovative people and businesses. We must work proactively to ensure that copyright laws keep up with our amazing technological advances, allow for creativity to flow to all corners of the world, and still respect the rights of content creators.

Let’s translate shall we?  What’s she’s really saying is:

In order for big tech to continue to reap millions off creative content it doesn’t own it’s imperative that copyright law be neutered so that nothing will impede big tech’s ability to grow profits…

Notice the carefully crafted use of “innovative” as an adjective to describe both the people and the businesses she deigns to protect. Certainly copyright laws should “keep up with” technological advances, but not in the way I assume O’Conner means.  She and her ilk hope to disembowel current copyright law in order to benefit tech’s bottom line, but if we are serious about transforming copyright law so that it remains relevant in the 21st century lawmakers should really begin by revisiting the woefully out-of-date 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act to better protect the rights of content creators.

True copyright reform should begin with questioning why it’s OK that creators have been on the short end of the stick for nearly two decades? Why not revise “safe harbor” so that it protects the innovative musicians, filmmakers, authors and other creators who routinely have their work ripped off and monetized online by others?  If organizers of this shiny new coalition genuinely believed in “respecting the rights of creators” they would work to improve copyright law so that creators are afforded more protection, rather than less.

O’Conner asserts that everyone online is now a creator, but let’s face it–not every creation is equivalent.  Just because I can upload a mashup video to YouTube doesn’t mean that the content I created is worthy of protection that trumps the rights of the creator whose creation made my mashup possible.

Sure, there should be an allowance for fair use when appropriate–but do members of the ReCreate Coalition really envision a world where someone who works 3 minutes on something should always have the same (copy)rights as those who spent 3 years creating the original work?  Just because people can upload content online doesn’t mean their rights are equal to, or exceed the rights of those who originally created it.  Innovation, in whatever form that takes, cannot be a license to steal.

copyright-kiilling-balance-2Take a look at the list of groups that united to form this new, anti-copyright effort:

American Library Association, Association of Research Libraries, Center for Democracy & Technology, Computer and Communications Industry Association, Consumer Electronics Association, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Media Democracy Fund, New America’s Open Technology Institute, Public Knowledge, and R Street Institute.

If you really want to understand what the goals of this nascent coalition are,simply follow the money.  The same cast of characters–led by Google–seems to appear repeatedly. Whether it be through slimy, backdoor means or endeavors like the ALA’s Google’s Policy Fellowship, there’s no denying the ever-present funding (and influence) bought by big brother tech.   Could their coalition be any more incestuous, or disingenuous?

While lobbyists for a number of these groups are actively working to dismantle copyright protections–and in the process undermine the livelihoods of filmmakers, musicians, authors and more–it’s worth noting many of these anti-copyright organizations seem to pay their employees pretty well–much better than non-profits where my friends work.

cdt-salaries.001Take a look the Center for Democracy & Technology’s 990 tax filing for 2013 and note all ten of their ten salaried executives made over $100,000 per year, with the CEO at the time, the position now held by O’Connor, earned a pretty nice salary of $286,731 (plus $17,204 in other compensation). It’s worth noting that CDT appears to get the much of its funding from tech interests.

According to the 990 filed by the (Google/Facebook backed) EFF, for the tax fiscal year 2013, everyone but the accountant earned compensation in excess of $100,000 + (and its ED more than 200K). Those on salary at Public Knowledge in 2012 were also part of the 100K plus club with its president/co-founder earning compensation of $207,150 plus an additional 17,544 listed as “other.”

While I don’t begrudge these folks earning a good living, I do find it troubling that much of their work is so ardently focused on denying others that same right.  I also find it troubling these organizations are not the grass roots organizations they purport to be.  While some of their work, particularly that of the ALA, is laudable, for the most part the groups that make up this  “coalition” spend a much of their time lobbying in support of initiatives promoted by tech-based corporations–and against content creators who depend on robust copyright law to protect their livelihoods.  This latest phony alliance appears to be just another effort to push big tech’s profit-driven agenda to weaken copyright in order to grow profits.

It’s also worth that at the same time the ReCreate Coalition announces its stepping into the ring, another astroturf entity, The Mic Coalition  sprouted up alongside.  In lock-step with the ReCreate mission, this Music Innovation Consumers coalition pretends to have the interests of creators in mind, but of course it’s simply more disingenuous posturing.

Note how they deftly employ the magic tech abracadabra word innovation” in their moniker. After all, who can argue with magic that is innovation right? To appreciate the true extent of the baloney proffered by the MIC coalition, excellent posts on the subject can be found on The Trichordist blog. Here’s just a sampling:

Gee this wasn’t coordinated at all. Two new Astroturf (squared) organizations in two days (with possibly the same web designer?)  The day after the announcement of the the new  ReCreate Coalition, an AstroTurf organization composed almost exclusively of Google connected Astroturf organizations,   some of the same companies plus The National Association of Broadcasters, I Heart Media (Clear Channel)  Pandora and NPR have announced the creation of the MIC-Coalition in order to lobby AGAINST fair digital royalties to artists; AGAINST terrestrial royalty for performers,  and to keep songwriters under the oppressive and unconstitutional DOJ consent decrees.  Read the website it’s unbelievable.

The real joke is on anyone, in Washington D.C. or elsewhere, who takes these groups seriously.  I mean, if you’re a fan of Fringe you know that shape-shifters never had good intentions.  My guess is the same could be said for these shiny new anti-copyright coalitions too.  Apparently there’s a plentiful supply of b.s. to fertilize an endless supply of Astroturf in Washington D.C.

*Note, the above embedded video from the Fox series “Fringe”  has been uploaded to YouTube and monetized by WBTV.