The Florida legislature recently passed the “True Origin of Digital Goods Act.” The bill now sits on the desk of Governor Scott, awaiting his signature or, if tech interests have their way-the veto pen.
The proposed law would require any website operator selling digital downloads provide contact information (name and address) in order to do business.
A person who owns or operates a website or online service dealing in substantial part in the electronic dissemination of commercial recordings or audiovisual works, directly or indirectly, and who electronically disseminates such works to consumers in this state shall clearly and conspicuously disclose his or her true and correct name, physical address, and a telephone number or e-mail address on his or her website or an online service in a location readily accessible to a consumer using or visiting the website or online service.
Doesn’t sound particularly onerous does it? After all, any other (brick and mortar) business operating in Florida must do so. Why should online commerce be immune?
In predictable fashion, the usual suspects, like the (tech-funded) EFF, lined up against the bill with the usual hyperbolic warnings that it would “have disastrous consequences for anonymous online speech both inside and outside the state.” Sound familiar?
The CDT also sounded the alarm in predictable fashion, quoting a Supreme Court case: Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority.
Ok, let me get this straight. Transparency is great when sites like Chilling Effect post un-redacted DMCA notices, but when Florida asks business owners engaged in financial transactions to disclose contact information, it’s a tyrannical threat?
Ironically the CDT post arguing against the law points to the DMCA as the reason such a law is not necessary. Meanwhile, when someone uses the DMCA, his/her attempt to remove infringing content is undermined in the name of transparency? Ok…
Selling digital content is selling, not speech. To conflate this law with concerns over free speech is ludicrous. Isn’t the online ecosystem mature enough for us to differentiate between the two? Not all online activity is the same. Should a person seeking a business license in Florida not provide a name and address in the name of free speech? There is language written into this law to safeguard those using excerpts of material for commentary or other non-commercial purposes.
Commercial recording or audiovisual work” means a recording or audiovisual work whose owner, assignee, authorized agent, or licensee has disseminated or intends to disseminate such recording or audiovisual work for sale, for rental, or for performance or exhibition to the public, including under license, but does not include an excerpt consisting of less than substantially all of a recording or audiovisual work. A recording or audiovisual work may be commercial regardless of whether a person who electronically disseminates it seeks commercial advantage or private financial gain from the dissemination. The term does not include video games, depictions of video game play, or the streaming of video game activity. [emphasis added]
The internet is now the center of all things–commerce, social discourse, communication and more. Not everything that happens online is sacrosanct. The time has come for reasonable measures to ensure online businesses selling digital downloads operate in a lawful fashion. That is not an extreme notion.
Governor Scott should do the right thing and sign this bill into law. Consumers in Florida will benefit. As Latin musician Monte Rosa wrote for a piece in the Tallahassee Democrat in support of the bill:
Transparency can be a powerful tool, both to arm Florida consumers with more information to better navigate the Internet and to deter an illegal website from peddling stolen music in the first place. Wouldn’t that basic information help Florida music fans better distinguish the scam sites from the licensed music services that actually compensate artists?
The only ones who will lose are those nefarious website operators whose business operations have something to hide. Please sign the bill.