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The Times Distorts Copyright Debate

By Dane Baker

In response to As Piracy Battle Nears Supreme Court, the Messages Grow Manic

Congrats to Downhill Battle for exposure in today’s New York Times, in a story rife with preposterous assumptions, subtle and otherwise, too numerous to cover in such a small space. So we’ll stick to the main distortions peddled by the self-proclaimed “newspaper of record”, namely that the copyright dispute is merely a “public relations battle” in which the goal is to properly package one’s message so a wide-eyed and confused public can understand that file-sharing is “illegal” and “wrong”, stealing from poor, “principled” corporations.

Focusing on the superficial “public relations” aspect of the copyright debate allows the Times to skirt it’s responsibility and avoid discussing the debate over copyright issues before the Supreme Court, a debate in which business interests don’t have a clear advantage. The issues are instead brushed aside with a end-of-story quote asserting that “both are right, both are wrong.”

The very idea that “principles” have any place in a modern corporation is so absurd it’s not even worth debating, but let’s look a brief example: the RIAA. The article quotes RIAA head Mitch Bainwol lamenting that file-sharing lawsuits “get more coverage because of the nature of the controversy” and not because the RIAA is itself a public relations arm of the major labels, often suing citizens into destitution and then publicizing their successes to instill fear in the music-buying public. That’s what corporate “principles” entail, all facts that Times reporters surely know and choose not to report.

Perhaps the most appalling assumption peppered throughout the piece is the portrayal of the public as too stupid to understand the issues at hand—never mind that a teenager could grasp the basics with an afternoon of research. But not according to the Times, which reports that copyright law is “hard to reduce to sound bites”, which is absolutely required if the stupid masses can possibly hope to participate in this debate.

It’s pretty difficult to foster an honest discussion of the true issues when a main establishment journal like the Times refuses to allow it, but that’s why we have groups like Downhill Battle.

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