By Gabrielle Canon
Over Thanksgiving weekend, 2010, a Homeland Security division wrongfully seized a hip-hop blog called Dajaz1, on allegations of copyright infringement. The site -- which got some 3,000 hits a day or so -- was run by a guy from Queens known only as Splash. As you can see on the C-SPAN video posted on the site, there was no due process, no nothing!
Some 80 sites were taken down, actually, including five hip-hop domains, who, under the direction of the RIAA, were accused of distributing pirated music. Dajaz1 was targeted for leaking music and providing downloads; Splash insists the tracks were provided to him by record companies, and there's every reason to believe him, as labels have been doing this for years. In any case, after a full year -- one of sealed court documents, hidden records, and delayed hearings -- last week the Department of Justice finally dropped the case and the site went back up.
Sucks for that dude. But the wider ramifications are just beginning.
They include, potentially, the weakening of support for two bills making their way through Congress: the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House, and the Protect IP Act in the Senate. Dajaz1, in fact, urges its readers to fight them.
You've probably heard a lot about these bills by now; under the auspices of restricting illegal downloading, they would identify rogue sites -- file-sharers like Pirate's Bay but also, presumably, blogs like our favorite Passion of the Weiss who give away mp3s. Then they'd shut them down. And not only would the site owners be liable, but search engines connecting visitors to them, like Google, would be too.
Critics charge that these bills would be censorship and impinge on free speech. (Techdirt reports on many of these issues.) But what would they would mean for the music business is this: more blogs would be punished for promoting the very industry that's attacking them.
What sense does that make? Free mp3s are the bread and butter of most music blogs. And both labels and artists gleefully support them, as it's a quick and easy way to build buzz.
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Don't get us wrong. We still think people who rip albums off file-sharing networks are assholes. And we support these bills' larger goals of trying to restore some health to the suffering music industry.
But punishing music blogs is not the way to do it. And the truth is that even if this legislation passes, consumers are never going to buy records the way they used to.
The recording industry needs to focus on the new frontier of internet opportunities rather than clinging to a dying business model. We've never seen much reason to trust the RIAA, and shutting down legitimate hip-hop websites for no reason doesn't help their case.
For the other side of the story, see: The Stop Online Piracy Act: The Owner of San Francisco's Burning House Records Explains His Support