Monday, January 26, 2009

Techdirt: up is down; black is white; speaking out is shutting others up

The low quality of "reporting" by the copyleft will never cease to amaze.

Here's the latest example. On Jan. 22, Digital Media News ran a short item reporting that ASCAP would host a lunch meeting "to discuss a number of top issues." Those issues include:
licensing and rate proceedings in the digital area, the new Congress, and working together to counter the growing prevalence of the "copy left/free culture" pontificators in the public discourse about creators rights.
Sounds exactly like what a group like ASCAP is supposed to do: advocate on behalf of its members. So how does Techdirt -- a copyleft-friendly group blog -- interpret this routine meeting? "ASCAP Working To Shut Up Free Culture Supporters." You got that right: "working together to counter" its ideological adversaries on copyright issues actually constitutes "working to shut [them] up." Of course, nothing in the original DMN story, in my follow-up, or in the lunch invitation itself (which I have read) contains the slightest hint that ASCAP is seeking to shut anyone up. Of course, ASCAP is simply saying that it wants its own voice to be heard in a world where the copyleft dominates the discourse in academia, "public interest" groups, and the blogosphere.

ASCAP deserves kudos for doing more to speak out on copyright issues from copyright owners' and creators' perspective. If the other side "pontificates," they should pontificate right back. (I'm a blogger, and therefore a big fan of pontification from all sides.) And Techdirt should correct their absurdly wrong headline.

One final point: Techdirt's story paints ASCAP -- which represents songwriters, composers, and music publishers -- as a "confused" group of music business neanderthals, fighting off all promising "new business models." Funny, when reputable journalists examine the music publishing business, they come to a quite different conclusion.

UPDATE: lively discussion here, featuring Techdirt's continued insistence that "counter" means "shut up."


  1. Good post. I added a comment to the Techdirt thread. While new business models are great, the advocacy of the true believers in the copyleft, open access (in scholarly publishing), and free music movements tends to brook no opposition. Not to mention some novel ideas about the basic nature of copyright itself.

    My first time here, but you have a new regular reader.

  2. Note that “copyleft” is not anti-copyright. It is firmly grounded in copyright law.

  3. I use the term "copyleft" in a different sense than that described in the Wikipedia article you cite.

    I use "copyleft" to refer to the political/social/legal movement that, generally speaking, seeks to reduce the scope and term of copyright and is critical of copyright owners' efforts to enforce their rights. Prominent voices of the copyleft include Professor Larry Lessig and groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Certainly not all members of the copyleft are "anti-copyright," if that means "advocating that copyright law be abolished," though I do think that label is appropriate for some of the more radical members of the movement.

  4. I believe it is erroneous to characterize the principals at techdirt (and other similar sites) as being "copyleft" advocates. Quite the contrary, such sites have made their views only too clear that they are squarely in the "copy-gone" camp.

  5. To be clear: ASCAP is generally one of the good guys.

    But this post is questionable.

    "Counter" means to oppose or engage in combat. The issue on the ASCAP meeting agenda, is, indeed, combating the copy-left "pontificators."

    TechDirt correctly pointed this out.

    There are only two ways to defeat a pontificator: 1 Make your message louder. 2 Shut them up.

    So TechDirt isn't out-of-line with that comment.

  6. I continue to believe that Techdirt's statement that ASCAP is seeking to "Shut Up Free Culture Supporters" is ridiculous.

    How in the world could ASCAP shut anyone up, even if they wanted to?


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