And the Downhillbattle folks arent out to win any friends among folks who might be some of their biggest supporters. Criticism of Apples iTunes and rants about the music industry business model are given prominent play on the site.
Thats fine. And theres a place for that sort of activism, too. But thats the very sort of stuff that makes recording executives dig in their heels. It also helps the recording industry win Congressional support for its cause, particularly in a Republican-led, pro-business Congress.
A different sort of problem exists with the "Endangered Gizmo" campaign. Its a cute little cartoon warning consumers that many of the things they love—the Replay personal video recorder, the iPod—could be crushed by big business "dinosaurs" who dont want to change the law.
For geeks, this is clever. But like Downhillbattles arguments—explicit and otherwise—its preaching to the choir. EFF is an organization of people who know and like new innovative devices for themselves. Less geeky consumers are more interested in what the machines can do. An ad campaign—a real live multimillion-dollar advertising campaign with a name like "Dont Let Them Stop the Music"—would be a lot more effective.
This isnt to suggest that the Recording Industry Association of America or the Motion Picture Academy of America—both of whom think suing their customers is good business—are right on this issue. They arent.
Thats why you dont see them out there wasting their money. Theyre fighting a backroom battle because they know—eventually—that the popularity of the digital video recorder and the iPod will change the current system. They just want to make sure that when it changes, it does so in their favor.
The movie and record folks have a simple strategy against tech companies: Delay. They want to delay changes in the law as long as possible so they can think up new business models that address technological changes. In the meantime, of course, its business—and revenue—as usual. Tactics like EFFs and Downhillbattles play into that tactic by leaving consumers—except for those already interested in the issues—out in the cold.
eWEEK.com Technology and Politics columnist Chris Nolan spent years chronicling the excesses of the dot-com era with incisive analysis leavened with a dash of humor. Before that, she covered politics and technology in D.C. You can read her musings on politics and technology every day in her Politics from Left to Right Weblog.
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