My sense is that when artists think about or discuss their economic and political interests, copyright law is often the dancing elephant in the center ring that unfortunately draws too much attention from other issues that creators should also be worried about. One very important issue is net neutrality, which has been in the news recently.
On September 9 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit heard arguments from Verizon, which is challenging FCC rules designed to keep the internet open and neutral. If net neutrality hasn’t been on your radar, and you don’t know anything about common carrier rules, or how they affect the internet, I would recommend you catch up by reading this article by Timothy Lee in the Washington Post (Sept. 10, 2013). Net Neutrality is on Trial in Washington. Here’s What You Need to Know. (See also the other resources listed below).
Net neutrality matters to all creators, if you consider what the marketplace for artistic services might look like if Verizon, AT&T, Time-Warner, and COMCAST win their fight to lock up internet access and content. Increased costs just for access, plus arbitrary data caps with associated high fees and penalties, will mean fewer consumers buying less content; suppression of competitors will reduce the need for providing quality service and programming; fewer buyers of creative works will mean that the big players will have increased leverage over what they pay you for your work. And that’s just looking at a loss of net neutrality from a purely business and financial bottom-line viewpoint; from an ordinary citizen’s vantage, allowing a handful of corporations to monopolize the internet and choose what content is favored, or even available, would be an unthinkable assault on the basic rights of all Americans.
It’s worth mentioning here that the Graphic Artists Guild, as an associate member of the Copyright Alliance, is actually in league against the interests of creators. While the Alliance regularly sends out its clowns to keep everyone’s attention focused on the copyright elephant, its lobbyists are busy at their real day jobs representing Nickles Group LLC clients COMCAST and AT&T, not to mention a slew of other corporate interests that are very unfriendly to the creative community.
Here are a number of other articles and resources for catching up on the issue of net neutrality, and what the telecoms are up to:
Eli Clifton. The Telecom Astroturf Lobby. The American Independent. Sept. 11, 2013.
Michael J. Copps. The New Telecom Oligarchs. The Nation, April 3, 2013.
Michael Weinberg. If You Are Streaming Video, You Can’t Cap Your Rivals (Time Warner Cable Edition). PublicKnowledge.org, August 28, 2013
Timothy Karr. Verizon’s Plan to Break the Internet. Common Dreams, Sept. 21, 2013.
Moyers & Company. Susan Crawford on Why U.S. Internet Access is Slow, Costly and Unfair. Video interview, Feb. 8, 2013.