Tasteless tactics

Bootlegging worse than child exploitation?

We've all seen commercials for cleaning products that go something likes this: A narrator tells you that your home is filled with horrible germs and bacteria, often portrayed by monstrous, brown animated furrballs.

Then, you're told that the cleaning product on offer will kill all of those germs. It will sanitize your home. It will protect your family.

Basically, the message is this: If you don't buy new and improved, grime-fighting (PLACE PRODUCT NAME HERE), you and your family … will die.

Buy or die. Well, I think that a whole bunch of PR wags representing the music industry in America have learned a lot from fear-mongering ad campaigns.

Let's start at the beginning: Communications giant Verizon and Google have made major waves after they made a seven-step proposal to the United States government; its what they think the guidelines should be to ensure that Internet access continues to grow in an open fashion.

Of course, any Internet regulations in America affect the entire world. So what happens there is important to Canadians.

One of Verizon/Google's proposals: “Therefore, our proposal would allow broadband providers to offer additional, differentiated online services, in addition to the Internet access and video services … offered today. This means that broadband providers can work with other players to develop new services. It is too soon to predict how these new services will develop, but examples might include health care monitoring, the smart grid, advanced educational services, or new entertainment and gaming options.”

Of course, as soon as the Google/Verizon proposal mentioned new entertainment options, the music industry had to respond. A group of major lobby groups representing the recording industry in America, including the Recording Industry Association of America, SoundExchange and Nashville Songwriters Association International, sent an open letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
As expected, it stressed that no matter how Verizon and Google team to open up the Net, they have to keep in mind that they aren't to slack off when it comes to allowing illegal activity.

And that's where the fear-mongering came in. “We read about your recent joint policy proposal for an open Internet and commend you and Verizon for advancing the public conversation on this important issue,” reads the letter. “The music community we represent believes it is vital that any Internet policy initiative permit and encourage ISPs and other intermediaries to take measures to deter unlawful activity such as copyright infringement and child pornography.”

Whoa. Copyright infringement and child porn … in the same breath?

I can't think of a more vile thing that is spread on the Net than child porn. I imagine neither could the PR firms behind the RIAA and co. So, to stress just how evil music pirates are, why not lump them into the same category as the sickos out there who exploit children?

Let's get this straight. If there is a hell, there is a special place in it for those who abuse children. But, I would wager that Satan hasn't really come up with a new level for the people who bootlegged the new Lady Gaga single.

Seriously, it's like comparing the teen who smokes pot to a serial killer. Yeah, both are crimes—and
on entirely different ends of the sliding scale.

It's reprehensible that the recording industry sought to link such disparate levels of criminal activity to make a point. We get it. We understand that labels want their copyrights protected.

But you don't need to scare us with child porn.

Tasteless, tactless and completely unnecessary. All it serves to do is weaken, not strengthen, the industry's point. It's as if they came to some kind of weird conclusion that their issues might not come off as being important on their own merits, so they had to throw in the entirely unrelated issue of child abuse in there. Sad. V

Steven Sandor is a former editor-in-chief of Vue Weekly, now an editor and author living in Toronto.

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