Friday, June 15, 2007

Profits or reputation. You choose.

When does stating disagreement about something constitute making malicious statements? One answer it seems is when you criticise the music industry for its actions against people who download music.

Here’s a topic that’s providing more ammunition for the argument that suing people – and for that matter, generally threatening people – for saying and doing things contrary to one’s corporate interests is probably not ‘good PR’.

In fact, if I had the time and motivation to find a foolproof way of quantifying an organisation’s reputation, I could probably come up with something like ‘Wilby’s Law’: ‘Given the constant of an environment in which information may be openly exchanged (such as the blogosphere), the extent of a party’s propensity to repress opinion and/or action contrary to its interests is in inverse proportion to the extent of its public esteem’.

The formula is demonstrated yet again this week in the New Music Strategies blog maintained by my UCE colleague Andrew Dubber.

In this case, the ‘party with the propensity’ is Paul Birch, board member of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry and the British Phonographic Industry.

The opinion he is seeking to repress is generally the ‘indiscriminate criticism of the Recording Industry Association of America’ and, in particular, this link to the Download Squad that could somehow be reached by surfing from Dubber’s blog.

The extent of the RIAA’s public esteem, or apparent lack of it, is evidenced by the responses that have been posted on Dubber’s blog – and elsewhere – to the dialogue between Dubber and Birch. Birch threatens to complain to the University of Central England because Dubber has allowed discussion on his blog about the legitimacy of the RIAA’s actions against individuals who download music or share music files.

Here’s a taste of Birch’s comments:

You might argue that your professional blog is your opinion alone, however you are interwoven into the views and policy of the University of Central England and I think that puts you in an exposed positon (sic) Andrew.

If you persist then I shall make a formal complaint to the University.
Your choice.

One less objective than myself might paraphrase this, ‘Nice job you’ve got there – you wouldn’t want anything to happen to it, would you?’

music downloads    Andrew Dubber    RIAA     UCE     blogs     reputation     litigation    free speech