Thursday, February 05, 2009

A letter to Sen. Hatch from one of our readers

One of our readers shared with me a copy of a letter he just wrote to this senator, Senator Hatch who is a member of the Judiciary Committee:

Senator Hatch-

I am a resident of Salt Lake City and I write to you today about my
concern regarding the practices of the Recording Industry Association
of America (RIAA) and to bring to your attention the false statements
and blatant lies the RIAA provided to the Judiciary Committee in their
December 23rd letter:

As you most likely know, the RIAA has been involved in an unsuccessful
intimidation and extortion scheme under the guise of curtailing
peer-to-peer sharing of music files. Unfortunately, this litigation
campaign has not been effective and has instead been an abuse and
drain on our legal system. The vast majority of ordinary citizens
caught up in their dragnet (guilty or not) have no means for an
adequate defense and end up settling out of court. For the few
defendants who stick up and fight, the RIAA is quick to throw in the
towel when things don't go their way. In fact, only one case has gone
to trial in this multi-year campaign, the result of which was a
verdict in favor of the RIAA later being thrown out due to the major
legal argument of the RIAA being invalid in the eyes of the courts.

With the news that three lawyers with ties to the RIAA are now part of
the of the Department of Justice (Associate Attorney General Perrelli,
Associate Deputy Attorney General Verrilli - the lawyer in the above
mentioned trial, and Deputy Attorney General Ogden) I am deeply
concerned that the RIAA's campaign and other illegal activities may
continue unchecked.

The specific matter I would like to draw your attention to is the
statement in their December 23rd letter:

"Also, during this past summer, we began discussions with New York
Attorney General Cuomo, who suggested that now was the time to take
our practice of last resort – lawsuits – and replace that form of
deterrence with productive engagement by the ISP community in the form
of graduated response programs. At his request, as an act of good
faith in pursuing these alternatives, we discontinued initiating new
lawsuits in August."

What were their discussions with New York Attorney General Cuomo
regarding? Were the record companies being investigated for some
violation of NY law? What was the RIAA's agreement to stop their
litigation campaign some kind of deal with respect to this
investigation? If so, I'd like to point out that their statement that
the RIAA discontinued initiating new lawsuits in August is a blatant
lie. The following link shows a list of nearly 40 lawsuits the RIAA
has known to have initiated as part of their litigation campaign in
December alone:

I have no ties to the recording industry nor to anyone sued by the
RIAA. I am just a concerned citizen of your state that has followed
this litigation campaign with disgust for a number of years. I ask
that as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee you remain diligent
in your dealings with the RIAA and critical of their continued
campaign, including their recent misrepresentations of facts to you.

Thank you.

Keywords: lawyer digital copyright law online internet law legal download upload peer to peer p2p file sharing filesharing music movies indie independent label freeculture creative commons pop/rock artists riaa independent mp3 cd favorite songs intellectual property portable music player


ScrewMaster said...

This letter is all well and good, but it will likely fall upon deaf ears. This BBC article from 2003 clearly documents his attitude toward peer-to-peer activities.

This excerpt says it all:

"If that's the only way, then I'm all for destroying their machines."

He said if a few hundred thousand people suffered damage to their computers, the online community would realise the clampdown was serious.

He advocated sending two warnings to computer users about illegal downloads. On the third transgression, their computer would be destroyed or damaged.

"There's no excuse for anyone violating copyright laws," Mr Hatch added.

I remember reading these remarks, at the time, with nothing short of astonishment (at the sheer brazen ignorance of it all, if nothing else.) Oh, he later softened his stance on the subject, but nevertheless this is not a man likely to be friendly to P2P, or anyone accused of copyright infringement.

Scott said...

This letter is EXCELLENT. The tone is exactly right. No, it won't fall on deaf ears. They like to be reelected and they will listen to their constituents, especially when their letters are to the point, articulate, and politely pissed-off.

The letter writer will at MINIMUM get a personal letter back from either Hatch or a legislative aide, and I bet Ray would be happy to post a PDF copy of it.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect to Senator Hatch, he should really find another line of work.

Russell said...

Hatch is a safe seat. This issue will not impact his behavior. He is more interested in the special interest money than voters.

Frankly, if you want someone to carry the flag, it has to be someone who can make their name with the issue.

Someone who has a clue about technology, not Hatch.

derivative said...

Orrin Hatch's views on this stuff are probably more nuanced than some of you give him credit for.

On the one hand, he's an (amateur) musician who has published a few things, I think.

On the other hand, he gave Hillary Rosen grief at the napster hearings several years back:

”Can I make a copy of a CD that I buy and put it into a car?” asked Hatch. When Rosen hemmed and hawed, Hatch muttered, ”The answer is yes.”

”Is it fair use to give the copy to my wife for her car?” Hatch continued. ”Is it fair use for me to rip a CD? Is it fair use if (a computer network) decides for efficiency reasons that one copy is sufficient to serve for storage, instead of keeping 200 separate copies, is that fair use?”

”None of these is fair use,” Rosen eventually replied. She argued that musicians’ willingness to ”tolerate” people making copies was an instance of ”no good deed goes unpunished.”

Scott said...

I don't buy your implicit argument that "you can't influence elected representatives in safe seats, so don't bother."

The reason their seats are safe is because they DO respond. Good constituent service produces goodwill that ultimately keeps them in office.

Writing to a "safe" senator or congressman puts the issue on their radar. And if they receive enough communication on an issue, they will see what they can do from a public policy standpoint to make that group happy.

It's a matter of public record: Republicans ended up with only a small fraction of the music industry's campaign contributions. The lion's share went to Democrats. It seems to me that Hatch's policy positions on IP come from his being sort of a law-and-order Republican, more than a sense of obligation to carry water for the RIAA (which may motivate Democrats more). I think some earnest and polite constituent lobbying could turn him. Letters like this are powerful.

Anonymous said...

This is an extremely well-written letter- I hope that the author doesn't mind that I sent a copy to my senator as well (with a few modifications, as I'm from TX and send it to Senator John Cornyn)

Anonymous said...

"So far in 2004, Leahy has received $178,000 in campaign contributions from the entertainment industries -- the second-biggest source of donations to Leahy behind lawyers. Hatch has received $152,360.'

Sponsers of the "Piracy Act"

$152,360 for Sen. Hatch. back in 2004. How much has he recieved since then? 5 years X 152,360 = a hell of a lot of money from the cartel.