Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Glenn Reynolds has more evidence that the big music labels are crooks, and that they are lobbying Congress to pass anti-consumer laws. They got Sen. Biden to introduce new bill would make it a federal felony (punishable by 5 years in prison) to try and trick certain types of devices into playing your music or running your computer program.

It is one thing to have draconian penalties like this for child porn to which everyone objects. But these penalties could apply to someone who is just playing his own music. I suggest accumulating a large music collection while it is still legal.

George writes, "There is no legal way to get MP3 files. How can you accumulate music?"

The big music labels want you to think that, but it is not true. It is not clear that users of Napster-like programs are doing anything illegal, as no user has been sued or prosecuted. For a good source of file sharing info and programs, see ZeroPaid.

George writes: "Napster was shut down by a lawsuit. A federal court said that it was illegal."

Yes, Napster lost a preliminary injunction, was bought out by one of the big music labels, and is now dead. I think that Napster made a number of tactical errors. But end users have not been sued or prosecuted, and they would have a number of additional defenses available. Eg, there is fair use, the Audio Home Recording Act, and antitrust conspiring among the music labels. 99% of the users would settle without a fight, but sooner or later someone would put up a good fight and I think that the music labels are scared about losing.

Update: Reynolds also has another good column -- a review of a book that explains how the history of England shows that gun control has not worked there.

It is a standard observation in American and English debates over gun control that England has strict gun controls and low crime rates, while America has (comparatively) liberal gun laws and higher crime rates. It is usually assumed that there is a cause and effect relationship, with the low crime stemming from the strict gun controls in England, and vice versa in the United States.

This turns out not to be the case. As Malcolm observes, violent crime rates in England, very high in the 14th century, fell more or less steadily for five hundred years, even as ownership of firearms became more common. By the late 19th century, England had gun laws that were far more liberal than are found anywhere in the United States today, yet almost no gun crime, and little violent crime of other sorts. (An 1870 act, which was seldom enforced, required the payment of a small tax for the privilege of carrying, not simply owning, a gun.) Despite a well-armed populace, Malcolm reports, "statistics record an astonishingly low rate of gun-related violence in the late nineteenth century."

See also Paul Craig Roberts.

And, of course, when England passed tight gun control laws, the violent crime rates went up. This is all what you'd expect if you think of guns as self-defense tools. When guns are legal, the overwhelming majority of guns are bought by law-abiding citizens for peaceful purposes (self-defense, hunting, target-shooting). The burden of proof is on the gun-control folks to show that gun-control measures might do something good.

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