Freedom of speech is alive and well in the United States, but it does occasionally take a bizarre turn. Witness this example from the MAY 2010 issue of PC World Magazine warning illegal downloaders:
"The next people who bust you for illegally swapping music and movies could be the folks you pay for internet access."
They go on to instruct the criminals that:
"THE FIX = Support for organizations such as Chilling Effects, the EFF and Public Knowledge, which fight laws that turn Internet service providers into Hollywood's hired guns."
It is one thing for PC World to try to sell magazines by offering advice to looters as to how they might lobby for changes in the law decriminalizing their thefts. However misguided, espousing that point of view is the legal right of any publication, and of any American.
From an ethical standpoint, though, it is another thing altogether to run a public advocacy organization that, under the guise of representing "free speech" interests, is actually dedicated to protecting the interests of these same looters.
The Songwriters Guild of America, for the last 80 years, has spent the vast majority of its time and resources educating and advocating for protections in the United States to shield creators from being mercilessly exploited and ripped off by those both within and outside of the music industry. Recently and far too often, we have seen the EFF and Public Knowledge (among other, similar groups) on the other side of our issues. At the SGA, we understand that there are important legal issues surrounding issues of copyright protection upon which reasonable people may disagree. But we would hope that the one thing we can all agree on is that the championing of laws that facilitate or even legalize the theft of another citizen's property -be it intellectual property, personal property or land- is NOT the proper role of any legitimate public advocacy group.
When the EFF and Public Knowledge are referred to as 'THE FIX' by an article advocating ways to avoid detection of the crime of illegal downloading, we would also hope that those groups would step forward and take the opportunity to explain how and why their organizations do not promote or support -and in fact actively oppose- the engagement of their supporters in criminal activity. We are still waiting and hoping that they will do so.
Both the EFF and Public Knowledge have in the past been strong advocates on genuine issues of speech freedom. SGA has supported them in those causes and has joined with them, for example, to advocate for restrictions on Media ownership concentration in radio because we feel that diversity of opinion is a critical component of democracy.
But what part of being 'THE FIX' for a mob of music and movie looters is related to the preservation of freedom of speech? Thousands upon thousands of creators are waiting for that answer, even as their livelihoods vanish before their eyes.