Friday, July 29, 2005

Senate Commerce Committee Grokster Hearing

The Senate Commerce Commitee held a hearing yesterday on Grokster. Here's a link to the webcast and testimony. There were 6 witnesses: Adam Eisgrau on behalf of P2P United, Inc., and EFF; Greg Kerber of Wurld Media, Inc.; Mark Heesen of National Venture Capital Association; David Baker of EarthLink, Inc.; Mitch Bainwol of RIAA; and an old friend, Fritz Attaway of MPAA. (Fritz is one of the most knowledgeable people on the planet about copyright and about Congress; he is extraordinarily savvy and sophisticated. Jack Valenti was the public face, but Fritz was the brains and then some).

Press reports, including this one from Wired, uncritically put out the message committee members wanted: "P2P pirates We're watching U." It was, however, a sound and fury signifying nothing. Here is some of the fury, first from chairman Ted Stevens:

"I do hope we're being heard because there are people in the Senate who want us to move now... We're holding a hearing to see what's going on in these industries and to see what might be done to terminate this illegal activity.."

Senator Barbara Boxer, a former neighbor of mine from Greenbrae, California (Marin County) said: "I want everybody to come out of this in good shape, but there's a right and wrong here."
"If you don't do more to protect our children, it's not going to sit well." Ah, liberals can be tough too.

This is Congress at its worst, grandstanding and ignorant. Copyright law has nothing to do with pornography problems; there are more than adequate laws already on the books to deal with pornography and as a father of 4 year old twins I am all for enforcing them ruthlessly, but imposing even more stringent liability on P2Ps under the copyright law will do nothing to solve that problem.

Contrary to Senator Stevens, there is no one in Congress pushing copyright legislation to deal with the issues raised but lamentably not decided in the public relations 9-0 opinion the Court issued before it whisked off for a three month vacation. The proof of this assertion is in the testimony by RIAA and MPAA yesterday which can be summarized in two words; "We're happy." And if they're happy, ain't nuthin' happin' Ted. Besides, you chair the wrong committee. Arlen is the man and he is otherwise occupied.


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