A few weeks ago, while reading a Time magazine article on Girl Talk, which is the stage name of popular Pittsburgh, PA-based mash-up DJ Greg Gillis, I was alerted to a youtube video of Pennsylvania Congressman Mike Doyle (D) speaking about Gillis use of copyrighted materials to make his mash-ups projects, and on DJ Drama’s mixtape empire being raided by the RIAA. If you watch the video, Doyle is clearly questioning whether or not copyright law as it applies to sampling, fair use and incorporating songs on mixtapes actually makes sense in this day and age, or whether the law should be changed.
Before we get too in depth, let’s just define the RIAA real quickly:
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is the trade group that represents the U.S. recording industry. Its mission is to foster a business and legal climate that supports and promotes our members’ creative and financial vitality. Its members are the record companies that comprise the most vibrant national music industry in the world. RIAA members create, manufacture and/or distribute approximately 90% of all legitimate sound recordings produced and sold in the United States.
In support of this mission, the RIAA works to protect intellectual property rights worldwide and the First Amendment rights of artists; conducts consumer, industry and technical research; and monitors and reviews state and federal laws, regulations and policies. The RIAA® also certifies Gold®, Platinum®, Multi-Platinum™, and Diamond sales awards, as well as Los Premios De Oro y Platino™, an award celebrating Latin music sales.
So you see, the RIAA is like the watchdog group of the music industry. They regulate things, make sure everything runs smoothly (read:legally). The RIAA are responsible for many of the lawsuits against people who’ve downloaded music. They think that peer to peer networks where music files are traded are the enemy. They also think DJs who incorporate music financed and owned by the major record labels and included on mixtapes are the enemy as well (see: DJ Drama).
Moving forward in this country, a big issue is where our new leaders stand in regards to copyright law.
Here’s where the new administration comes in. While Obama’s relatively mum on copyright law (more on that in a sec), CNET published an article back in August about Vice President Elect Joe Biden’s stance. It says
“[Joe Biden] held one Foreign Relations committee hearing in February 2002 titled Theft of American Intellectual Property’ and invited executives from the Justice Department, RIAA, MPAA, and Microsoft to speak. Not one Internet company, P2P network, or consumer group was invited to testify… Biden returned to the business of targeting P2P networks this year. In April, he proposed spending $1 billion in U.S. tax dollars so police can monitor peer-to-peer networks for illegal activity.”
The article also states,
‘Last year, Biden sponsored an RIAA-backed bill called the Perform Act aimed at restricting Americans’ ability to record and play back individual songs from satellite and Internet radio services. (The RIAA sued XM Satellite Radio over precisely this point.)’
Which is all to say that Joe Biden is pretty much pro-copyright. I don’t think he’s going to be jamming to any Girl Talk or Gangsta Grillz mixtapes with a clear conscience any time soon. In fact, sounds like he’s on the side of big media, intent on mowing down peer to peer networks, people who share files online, and those looking to copy and distribute copywritten content.
Obama, on the other hand, “strongly supports the principle of network neutrality to preserve the benefits of open competition on the Internet.” He also says, “we need to update and reform our copyright.”
So what is it, really, fellas? Is it reform, or is it siding with the RIAA and all the other big media watchdog groups and suing people for copyright violations at the hands of file sharing through peer to peer networks?