Marketplace Scratch Pad

Bono’s crusade against piracy

Scott Jagow Jan 4, 2010

The Irish Singer Who Always Wears Sunglasses offers this solution for the illegal downloading of TV shows and movies: Somebody should start policing what people are watching.

Perhaps he means the government, but more likely, he’s talking about Internet Service Providers. Here’s an excerpt from Bono’s editorial in the New York Times:

“…we know from America’s noble effort to stop child pornography, not to mention China’s ignoble effort to suppress online dissent, that it’s perfectly possible to track content. Perhaps movie moguls will succeed where musicians and their moguls have failed so far, and rally America to defend the most creative economy in the world, where music, film, TV and video games help to account for nearly 4 percent of gross domestic product.”

Bono doesn’t suggest going after the people who are stealing the content. He rips into the cable and phone companies that are providing the bandwidth. Although he doesn’t explain how they’re doing this, he says ISPs are “reverse Robin Hooding” and making huge profits “that perfectly mirror the lost receipts of the music business.”

CNET explains what Bono is up to:

Getting bandwidth providers to help fight online piracy is paramount for entertainment companies. Critics say the ISPs are in the best position to block the pirated material that flows through their pipes and create file-sharing deterrents. But the biggest ISPs have appeared reluctant to do much despite the cajoling and lobbying by the entertainment community.

In fact, the effort has gone nowhere. Perhaps Bono’s trying to give it a shove, but he admits he’s the wrong spokesman for the campaign: “Don’t get over-rewarded rock stars on this bully pulpit, or famous actors; find the next Cole Porter, if he/she hasn’t already left to write jingles.”

Bono’s idea may be rooted in something of a reasonable argument about artists and their work, but what he’s suggesting is, at best, a potentially slippery slope, and at worst, Big Brother. Not to mention the costs, which I’m sure would be tacked on to the bill we already pay for Internet access.

So, with that in mind, do you think Bono’s seeing clearly or does he need a new pair of shades?

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