One of my favorite South Park episodes begins with the boys forming a garage band, Moop. They have a fight about their musical direction, prompting Cartman to go off and form a Christian rock band, Faith +1. The remaining members of Moop, still casting about for a musical direction, learn about free music downloads from the Internet and decide to grab a bunch of tunes to inspire them. While they're in the process of downloading, a FBI SWAT team busts in and arrests them for illegally downloading music.
To show them the error of their ways, an agent takes the kids around to the homes of various music stars, showing the grave impact of illegal downloads on their careers - Master P's son won't get his own island for his birthday, Lars Ulrich won't be able to put a shark tank bar in his pool, and - horror of horrors - Brittany Spears will have to replace her Gulfstream 4 private jet with a Gulfstream 3. The point being, of course, that illegal downloads have precious little impact on the bottom lines of most artists and probably helps them out (Parker and Stone practice what they preach - they don't object to shows being downloaded off the Web, although I'd guess that Comedy Central might).
The point of this reminiscence is that, from today's column over at FindLaw, it looks like Marci Hamilton is part of the RIAA SWAT team. She rails against websites that exist solely to provide links to illegal copies of TV shows for download. She's right about the fact that the sites probably violate copyright law, or should, at any rate. But the rhetoric she uses to get there is amusing:
If one ever lacked a reminder of the greediness of human nature, a few minutes on the Internet would make the point impossible to forget. The list of entities willing (at some point) to use the Internet to get for free what they should have purchased is long.Yeah, that's right. The greed in the entertainment business is on the consumer's end. That's such a complete pile of steaming horse shit that it's hard to take anything else Hamilton says seriously. Particularly when Hamilton reveals her solution to the problem - reversing the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Sony v. Universal City Studios, aka the Betamax case. That case made it legal under US copyright law to sell VCRs that were capable of recording stuff off of TV. Because most users would use that capability to merely "time shift" when they watch a program, the non-infringing uses of the item greatly outweighed its potential infringing uses. If Hamilton had her way, the modern equivalent to the VCR - TiVo and it's ilk - would cease to be legal. To channel my Second Amendment friends, you can have my TiVo when you pry it from my cold dead hands!