In a recent post on The Trichordist, user “thetrichordist” (it’s not clear who that actually is) posted an article called Pre-72 Red Herrings from Pandora’s Chris Harrison (and that’s not the IPO kind). There are several things that are ridiculous about that article, but I’d like to focus on one thing in particular.
In the article, the writer says:
a statutory royalty […] is actually fair compensation for rights the law takes away from artists and copyright owners in the compulsory license that is necessary to avoid a “taking” under the 5th Amendment[.]
To be blunt, this is utter and complete horseshit. Statutory royalties are not there to prevent “takings,” because the statutory royalties were a condition of granting the rights in the first place. There was literally nothing to “take.”
A recent Trichordist rant by David Lowery shows just exactly what is wrong with the entire site, and indeed with Lowery’s entire thought process regarding copyright and artists’ rights. That rant is called You Can’t Have A Have A Healthy Market Economy Without Property Rights. Why Do So Many In Tech Blogosphere Want To Abolish Cyber Property Rights And Cripple The Cyber-Economy?
It is chock-full of wrong. Not just factual wrongness (though it has plenty of that), but wrongness at a very fundamental level. It is a rant that is the result of someone who is completely incapable of understanding anything that he doesn’t agree with. Not because he’s stupid – he’s not – but because comprehension would require considering a fundamental shift in his long-held, near-religious beliefs. Whenever he runs across a conflicting worldview, his brain simply shuts down.
If you have been following stories about Pandora, this headline may surprise you. Did something happen recently? Did they lose some lawsuit? Change their policies?
In fact, nothing whatsoever has changed. Pandora and SiriusXM are paying exactly the same royalties they were yesterday. The key word is the word “artist.” If you think songwriters are “artists,” then the statement is true, and always was. But if you are talking about recording artists – artists who perform the song on the recordings, but did not write the music – then the title is wrong.
Without clarifying which sort of “artist” you’re talking about, the title is misleading. If you are deliberately being misleading, then in my book, you are lying.
When someone says that someone else is “against copyright,” they are usually making a meaningless statement. If they simply mean “one who is against the current copyright laws,” then almost everyone is “against copyright.” If that were the case, then organizations like the RIAA, MPAA, or ASCAP are the ones who are most “against copyright,” since they are the ones who are the most active in lobbying Congress to promote changes to copyright laws.
That is pretty clearly absurd. What the accuser usually means is “they hold views on copyright that are not mine.” And because the implication is that copyright is ethical, the people making this statement do nothing but make an ad hominem attack. It holds no value in any rational discussion.
Instead, we must use some kind of terminology that captures both one’s own views, and the views of the opposing speaker. Only then can we even start to have any kind of dialog at all. Obviously, people have a wide variety of opinions on copyright law (when they have them at all). No single category, or set of categories, could possibly capture the nuances of the viewpoint held by any single person, or even of any single organization. Even so, copyright viewpoints generally fall into specific categories. This is because they hold common normative views about the nature of copyright itself.