Lessig, who argues that the existing copyright laws were written for the 18th-century printing press and not for 21st-century downloading, drew attention to a strange inconsistency in the White House’s support for music producers in their case against Grokster: why would a Republican administration want to celebrate a victory for regulation?
“This is a totally familiar Republican argument,” Lessig said. “If you regulate in this field heavily, what you’ll do is get much less innovation and investment.”
But Sherman argued that the music industry wants to embrace innovation, too. Black made Sherman’s case by eloquently arguing that music industry employees could lose their jobs if Black’s music sales suffer because of illegal downloading. To Glickman, the whole argument was about how the movie industry could avoid the music industry’s mistakes – like failing to anticipate digital downloads.
The week before the radio show, the FBI, with the help of the MPAA, had shut down Elite Torrents, a website offering access to pirated movies. Glickman told me the MPAA is now starting to sue individuals, just as the RIAA has. I asked if he was concerned that for every Elite Torrents he puts out of business, two or three will take its place. Glickman answered, “You have no choice except to try to go after them, and if you go after them vigorously enough and with the help of the federal government…you at least send a strong signal that this conduct is illegal and it will not be tolerated and it will be punished.”
I am not so sure it will work. I want artists and writers to be compensated for their work, but how will they ever catch the woman who recently sat next to me on a plane and watched a bootleg copy of The Interpreter on her laptop?
Instead of quietly alerting the flight attendant that I was sitting next to a cultural terrorist, I went back to reading my homework for the radio special: Lawrence Lessig’s book, Free Culture.