More RIAA Blowback

The blowback from the RIAA’s lawsuits continues. First, recording artists like the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir, Chuck D of Public Enemy, DJ Moby, Steve Miller and Huey Lewis are all speaking out against the lawsuits, and more importantly against the myth that the RIAA is out to protect the artists. The plight of artists is the only source of sympathy the RIAA has, so this kind of talk hurts a lot. Then in a turnabout-is-fair-play move, a California man has filed lawsuit against the RIAA, alleging that their clean slate program is fraudulent because it offers an amnesty the RIAA does not have the right to grant. Finally, the EFF has started a petition to congress that protests the RIAA’s lawsuits, calls for “the development of a legal alternative that preserves file-sharing technology while ensuring that artists are fairly compensated” and asks that the EFF be included in upcoming hearings on the subject. The petition has already received over 12,000 signatures in first two days.

Meanwhile, RIAA president Cary Sherman is invoking that old standby Devil, child pornography, in congress. A pedophile could send “an instant message to the unwitting young person who downloads an Olsen twins or Pokemon file from the pedophile’s share folder on Kazaa,” Sherman said.

What strikes me is how differently this battle is playing out in the press than the CyberPorn and Kevin Mitnick battles did back in 1995. Remember back then, when the word “hacker” was spoken in the same frightened reverence with which we speak the word “terrorist” now. For better or worse, our society has realized in this last decade that there are worse crimes than porn on the Net, worse violations of our civil liberties than export restrictions on our cryptography, and more dangerous people than our own children. We’re wiser now, and that’s good, but I also find I long for the days when I wore my Cypherpunk Criminal t-shirt for political protest, not out of nostalgia.