The phenomenon that I called the Loweryquake has survived the press’s news-cycle rhythm and the proverbial 15-minute time limit. It continues to reverberate throughout the mainstream press and techblogosphere. It has led to a lot of what New York magazine last week called “actually pretty thoughtful online discussion.” And it has engendered what can only be called a movement in favor of artists’ rights.
This has nothing to do with the RIAA, MPAA, or any other representative of Big Media. The Artists’ Rights Movement is the product of actual content creators, real people who make the copyrighted works and receive the royalty checks… or not, as the case may be. They are in favor of stronger copyright enforcement, eager to expose technology industry profitability on the backs of recorded content, and deeply skeptical of many of the schemes that have been suggested to make up for lack of compensation from content in the digital age, from T-Shirts to “True Fans.” (They also sometimes espouse extreme positions such as curtailing First Sale.)
David Lowrey’s blog The Trichordist is fast becoming the unofficial house organ of the Artists’ Rights Movement. The Trichordist Random Weekly Reader, a weekly post of links to relevant articles around the web, is becoming as useful in its way as the lamented Rightscom Daily Briefing was before it was discontinued a few years ago. The Trichordist also aggregates other sympathetic blogs such as Copyhype and Fareplay, and more mainstream columnists such as Andrew Orlowski of The Register and Helienne Lindval at The Guardian.
Through The Thrichordist Random Weekly Reader I learned, for example, that the Center for Copyright Information (CCI) — the United States’ private-sector analog to graduated response regimes in countries like France — has appointed an Executive Director and is gearing up to launch later this summer. The surprising tidbit about this news is that they have appointed an advisory board that includes people representing consumers, privacy issues, and so forth — including Public Knowledge CEO Gigi Sohn.
It’s good to see Gigi Sohn doing something constructive like this. My opinion of Public Knowledge had been declining since its excellent white paper on 3D printing over a year ago. Its output has shifted towards shrill fire-up-the-base scare tactics. Its attempt to tie its Internet Blueprint to SOPA and PIPA was a particularly disingenuous piece of opportunism. Sohn has said that she will try to influence the CCI to stay away from copyright enforcement through suspensions of users’ ISP accounts. But more generally, the CCI advisory board will benefit from her point of view and, frankly, her presence will serve to blunt accusations that it’s a cabal between Big Media and ISPs and that consumers’ concerns aren’t being heard.
An article in today’s New York Times suggests that a main theme of this week’s annual exclusive Sun Valley media/tech summit will be constructive engagement on copyright infringement. On the one hand, RIAA CEO Carey Sherman has stated that he’s giving up on legislation as a remedy, now that SOPA and PIPA have failed (ACTA, which was soundly voted down in European Parliament last week, had long ago lost its teeth on copyright enforcement). He is more optimistic about “best practice” solutions arising from the private sector.
On the other hand, a top Google executive said, “we do not want to be building a business based on piracy.” Google also cosponsored an interesting new study of online copyright infringement carried out by BAE Systems Detica in the UK, and while — like all such studies — the methodologies can be questioned, this is another pleasantly surprising development.
These are all hopeful signs that, in the wake of the SOPA/PIPA defeat, the media and tech industries may be ending their hyper-partisanism, and in particular that the tech community may soften its “Party of No” stance regarding using technology to solve problems that were born of technology in the first place. Meanwhile, The Trichordist is clearly growing in influence; it may (to extend an analogy) even become an MSNBC to the likes of TechDirt’s Rush Limbaugh.
P.S. one organization that really needs to get the memo on the Artists’ Rights Movement is the Future of Music Coalition, which purports to represent independent musicians and songwriters. They could start by taking a hard look at their own advisory board.