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July 17, 2003

My Best Claude Rains Impression

Democrat Congressional Representatives John Conyers Jr. and Howard Berman have introduced a bill that makes uploading a copyrighted work to a peer to peer network punishable by a $250,000 fine and five years in prison.

Berman's name on this bill is something less than a surprise. He's been wholly owned by Hollywood for a while now.

Let's get some numbers from, done.

In 1994 the Walt Disney Company donated $8,500 to Berman's Congressional campaign.
In 1996 - $4,000
In 1998 - $5,750
In 2000 - $13,000
In 2002, Walt Disney gave $32,000 to Howard Berman, for a total of 63,000 dollars over 8 years.

Time Warner, later AOL/Time Warner, over the same period.
In 1994 - $8,500
In 1996 - $7,000
In 1998 - $12,500
In 2000 - $14,500
In 2002 - $29,050

In 8 years AOL/Time Warner put over $71,000 into Howard Berman's campaign pockets.

And finally, MCA/Seagram's/Vivendi, the company that changes hands more often than Christina Aguilera at the MTV awards.*
In 1994 - $3,000
In 1996 - $7,000
In 1998 - $14,750
In 2000 - $22,000
In 2002 - $27,341

8 year total - $74,000

Note that Vivendi is a French company, and in 2002 donated $364,318 to various U.S. politicians and parties. In 2004 we'll get to see which is dearer to an American politician's heart; Freedom Fries, or French Francs.

Media companies have been Howard Berman's biggest contributors in every Congressional election he has ever run in. The industry as a whole has showered Berman with over six hundred thousand dollars in 8 years.

Now, just as the 2004 fund raising gets started in earnest , Howie co-sponsors a bill that just coincidentally helps out his biggest contributors.


The question is why John "Now available in Arabic!" Conyers decided to co-sign onto this little paean for a payday. In the 8 eight years since he first ran for office, media companies have only crossed his outstretched palm with $168,652, an amount far less than what the same companies gave Howard "The Ermine" Berman for a single election, in 2002.

It could be that Conyers is angling to get back into Hollywood's good graces. Donations to his campaign from media companies actually fell from a high of $65,250 in the 2000 House election to $49859 in the 2002 election.

As Conyers routinely wins his elections with an 80+ percentage of the vote, it would seem that he doesn't need the money, but there's a least a hint that he holds vice-presidential ambitions. "Much obliged to you" money certainly helps there. Heck, he may just owe Howard a favor.

It's also possible that he believes the bill would make good law, though why a lawmaker as experienced as Conyers could look at such a travesty and think so strains credulity.

For purposes of section 2319(b) of title 18, the placing of a copyrighted work, without the authorization of the copyright owner, on a computer network accessible to members of the public who are able to copy the work through such access shall be considered to be the distribution, during a 180-day period, of at least 10 copies of that work with a retail value of more than $2,500.

English translation: If, without seeking permission first, a person puts a copyrighted work anywhere on a computer network open to the "public", then that person is a criminal.

Now, how many computer networks do you know of that aren't open to other people, i.e. "the public"? There's nothing about "peer to peer" networks in the bill. There's no language in the bill, as there is for enabling software, that defines "computer network" as anything other than what it is, two or more computers connected together.

It's a bad bill, it would make worse law, and the only explanation that makes any sense is that two congress critters are demonstrating to a major source of cash how helpful they can be in advance of the elections.

I am shocked, shocked I tell you.

*I am so hip.

Posted by Bigwig at July 17, 2003 09:14 PM | TrackBack
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Sorry to hear about the hip thing. Do you thing there is some medicine of take care of that?

Posted by: Scarecrow at July 18, 2003 07:48 AM

Wow! That is such a cool law! You mean, anything I write and is quoted on a website I don't like I can sue them for $25,000 dollars?

Show me the money!!!

Posted by: Larry Lurex at July 18, 2003 11:42 AM

And closer to home, Greensboro is in so many ways about as far from Hollywood as one could get, but that didn't stop our congressman from raking in bucks from the industry -- and supporting last year's bad bill.

Posted by: ed cone at July 18, 2003 02:07 PM

Good-bye in-context fact-checking, and Fisking, hello crippled Blogosphere?

Any evidence this might be a stalking horse for "professional" news media?

Posted by: Stephen at July 18, 2003 02:57 PM
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