Protect The Children And Don't Let Them Share

There are a few causes that will inspire me to write a letter to Senators, members of Congress and every once in a while the President. Personal privacy, especially with regards to technology, is one such cause. Recently, certain members of congress took aim at online pornography under the guise of protecting our children. God forbid the parents take some responsibility here. Luckily, the ACLU went to bat (for the second time on this issue) and won the Supreme Court case. Whether you condone pornography isn’t the point. Unless you are comfortable with people making decisions about what is available to you online, I suggest you put up a little fight. Left up to certain people, America will have a nice blanket of Christian-based values tossed over its head. The battle to “protect our children” has been won for now, so turn your attention (and your emails) to protecting P2P (Person-To-Person) networks on the Internet.

The following letter was drafted by a member of the Information Warfare tribe. If you don’t have the time to join the tribe, then at least give a few dollars to the ACLU or the EFF. At the very least, use the form letter below and send it. It will only take a moment of your time.

These are the Senators we MUST focus on:

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Orrin Hatch

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle

Judiciary Committee Ranking Democrat Patrick Leahy

Mr. ****INSERT SENATORS NAME HERE****, it recently came to my attention that legislation has been introduced to the Judiciary Committee that targets ‘P2P’ software.

While I certainly understand your intention is to protect children from “induced” piracy, you may not be aware of the other applications for this technology and market trend. You have probably been lobbied quite heavily by various industries in this matter, and could benefit from a balanced perspective given by average user.

P2P has become the most promising new form of sharing information and data. It does not discriminate between software, digitized documents, video or music. It is an electronic library. I belong to several information sharing groups on two P2P networks. We do not share music or major motion pictures, but instead focus on the exchange of culturally and politically relevant documentaries, commentary and news resources. Much of these items are obtained from The Library of Congress. Our groups have taken this activity offline by burning our compiled information to CD and have placed these at local coffee shops for the benefit of any member of our community. P2P promises to be a revolutionizing force as more people start shifting to viable and ethical uses.

Because of the nature of file sharing it is not possible to filter. In an age when industry has increased its push to commodify what we see and hear, it is necessary to have allies in office who are willing to protect the people’s right to self educate and make informed decisions. It is essential to the preservation of our Republic.

Ultimately it is the responsibility of every parent to determine what his or her children can see and do on the web. Regulating the Internet would be a huge mistake by setting an abominable precedent. We cannot begin filtering for the general public the way China does. While I agree with you that firms should not profit from “theft” there must be a better solution. If market regulation is necessary in your view, then I suggest the alternative of forcing P2P networks to only operate on donations made by its members or only getting profit through licensed works.

The RIAA may be telling you that their profits are shrinking, but they aren’t telling you the whole truth. Independent labels do not belong to the RIAA, and as the Hip-Hop and Indie movements continue to grow, more of our dollars shift to small production companies. The RIAA does not speak for the entire industry, in fact it represents fewer labels of the overall total present in our country than it did just a few years ago. Furthermore, this industry association has not taken into consideration that the tastes of the tech savvy public have changed and we are no longer interested in purchasing ‘formulated’ music. Indeed, the underground music scene has been able to self-produce and promotes through the use of home computers and live venues. Personal technology is now matching that which the industry previously invested millions in. This is what the free market is intended to do, bring prices down so the average consumer can benefit. More young Americans are interested in free music, but not necessarily monetarily free. Rather, independent of corporate or social engineering influences.

Services like Ebay ’s and allow consumers of music to sell or auction their old and used CD ’s for a fraction of the original price. This is a legal method of shifting licenses and accounts for a large portion of music purchases conducted today. I don ’t expect the various industry lobbyists to have told you about these services, so please investigate them.

Let us also consider the present economic climate in our country in comparison to Europe. In its European launch, Apple ’s iTunes service sold over 800,000 licensed song files in its first week. These sales were considerably larger than America ’s iTunes store, which has only sold ten times that in about one year. Both regions have access to the same P2P networks and both have high speed Internet accesses. The difference is that Germany, the UK and France are not in the midst of a serious economic crisis where a large portion of their population does not have money to spend on luxuries like music. Many American industries are suffering, but most are taking responsibility, exploiting market trends and improving their business models. Big labels are lagging behind because they lack vision or competent leadership, and now as a result they threaten the free flow of information.

I encourage you to use these arguments in asking tough questions of major label executives or representatives from the RIAA. You may also consider inviting executives from and to speak to you about sales on their services. Of course giving Indie labels a forum to share their ideas and statistics will assist in balancing big industry ’s propaganda.

Thank you for considering my objections to this legislation. I do hope to hear your response soon.