Nothing gets the blogosphere buzzing like the magic word "indictment." Never mind that a grand jury can, in the words of the wag, indict a ham sandwich if it wishes; the word's synonymous with guilty. (And to be honest, that ham sandwich does have a shifty look about it.)
For a few weeks the left side of the Internet rumor mill has practically fitted Karl Rove for an orange jumpsuit.
Now it'll be the right wing's turn: Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., has admitted to something the recording industry regards as a gross ethical lapse. Cue the "Dragnet" theme; call Perry Mason. Here's the shocker:
She has Beatles tracks on her iPod.
This stunning revelation came from a New York Post story, which called her "tech-savvy." (Really? Put a Linux operating system on your iPod so it can run Doom, and then we'll talk.) She brazenly admitted that her husband had given her the iPod file sharing! and rattled off the usual boomer favorites. You can imagine her aide's wince when she admitted to owning Lennon-McCartney intellectual property you can't get the Beatles on iTunes, after all.
You may be shaking your head: Uh, perhaps she bought the CDs, and put them on her iPod somehow?
Hah! That would assume that she owned the songs, which she doesn't. At least that's what the Recording Industry Association of America seems to think. Recent filings in Washington in defense of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act suggest these folks are walking back from their position that personal duplication may be considered "fair use."
Backups? Hah! Says the industry: "Even if CDs do become damaged, replacements are readily available at affordable prices." And of course there's no evidence that CDs are "unusually subject to damage in the ordinary course of their use."
Spoken like someone who doesn't have a 6-year-old at home who uses her "My Little Pony" song compilations as juice-box coasters.
So everyone's a crook now? One guy putting his songs on his iPod is the moral equivalent of some giant Chinese pirate factory? Hillary Clinton is the equivalent of a dork running a file-sharing server in his basement?
Of course the industry hereafter referred to as The Man, in '60s parlance won't be coming after people who rip to the iPod. For a while, anyway.
If they want to earn the undying contempt of their remaining customers, nailing some granny whose grandson put her Whoopie John polka compilation CD on her iPod is the way to go. But they want to reserve the right to tell us what we can do with the music we buy, because they're terrified of losing control.
And rightly so: If The Man is uptight and paranoid, it's partly because Flaming Youth decided it didn't want to pay for anything anymore, anytime. "Music wants to be free, man! Just ask the artists. Oh, they want to be paid? Whatever."
The popular media have long been paranoid about copying. No doubt in the early days of TV some execs didn't want movies shown on the tube, lest people take still photographs and reassemble the film in flip-book fashion. Most people don't want to shift TiVo content to their laptop or portable video player because they want to distribute "Lost" to encrypted Bulgarian servers; they just want to watch TV on the train. They want to dupe a limited-edition Disney DVD because the kids might use the original to play tug-of-war with the dog.
The industry may get the laws it wants, but they'll be like speeding tickets on the interstate: the price a few people pay for doing what everyone's doing. The attempt to control your use of what you buy has bipartisan support; there should be bipartisan pushback. Anyone want to make an iPod-style poster with the silhouettes of Bush and Hillary grooving out to music they bought?
Make sure the pictures aren't copyrighted, of course.