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Early last week the Songwriters Guild of America (SGA) testified before the New York City Council to express their dismay with the concept of Net Neutrality since it doesn’t address the issue of what it sees as rampant online music piracy.Songwriters Gordon Chambers and Phil Galdston joined SGA Pres Rick Carnes to urge the Council’s Committee on Technology in Government to refrain from backing Net Neutrality rules proposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).Instead of “protecting the openness of the Internet” SGA feels it would instead prevent ISPs from fighting illegal file sharing on their networks.Chambers told the council that 70% of the network traffic is P2P file sharing, generated by 5% of network users and that 90% of file-sharing traffic is illegal. “The current situation,” he concluded, “which permits a small percentage of looters to control a majority of a network’s bandwidth for the purpose of theft, is unacceptable, let alone the proper subject for permanent protection.”Too bad his figures are false.P2P traffic peaked at only 40% back in 2007, and a recent exhaustive two-year study by Arbor Networks, a network-management firm used by more than 70% of the world’s top ISPs, says the volume’s now down to a mere 18%!Streaming services are the new phenomenon with one having access to all the world’s music conveniently and for free. In fact, a recent survey by The NPD Group, a market research company, found that teens (13-17yo) acquired 19% less music, both legally and illegally, in 2008 than they did in 2007.When it comes to using P2P networks or services to download music illegally, the number of music tracks acquired by teens is down 6%.NPD notes that one of the reasons for the decline in music acquisitions by teens, both legally and illegally, is due to changes in the way they listen to music. Some 52% listened to online radio in 2008 compared to just 34% in 2007, and satellite radio listening among teens increased from 26% in 2007 to 31% in 2008.“With popular music sites like Pandora, imeem, and MySpaceMusic complementing offerings by terrestrial and satellite radio, more teens may be getting their fill of music and feeling less compelled to buy music or share it with others,” said Crupnick. “In fact a recent NPD MusicLab survey revealed that 54 percent of teens who heard a song they liked on MySpace Music were likely to simply listen to that song again on the site, compared with only 1 percent who claimed they would click through and buy the song on AmazonMP3, which is MySpace’s online partner for purchased music downloads.”So much for the SGA’s theory.Galdston said Net Neutrality would create a “legal safe harbor for pirates to continue to loot intellectual property” primarily by discouraging ISPs from taking action to prevent it.“The FCC is proposing to enshrine forever rules governing the Internet that are responsible for this devastation to the songwriter community. While these rules require that all lawful uses be treated ‘in a non-discriminatory manner,’ they ignore whether or not the usage is unlawful. The result is the property created and owned by songwriters like me is discriminated against. This is anything but neutral, he said.But, the only way to determine the legality of content on a given network is Data Packet Inspection (DPI), that is examining all files for signs of copyright infringement. That would be a clear violation of the of the 4th amendment in my opinion, which says “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.”Why should all content be automatically subject to search and seizure?Carnes said afterwards that he was “pleased to present the creator’s point of view” and that the Internet is a thieves’ paradise that cannot be allowed to remain neutral.In previous remarks the SGA has insisted that the “free market is the best weapon” against Internet piracy. It believes the since P2P was created by technology that we “must fight technology with technology.”What else would one expect from people who know probably know more about pianos than P2P protocols?One can never fight technology with technology, and file-sharers are always well ahead of the game.So what is all the fuss about?The FCC has already embraced four open Internet principles affirming that consumers must be able to access the lawful Internet content, applications, and services of their choice, and attach non-harmful devices to the network.Chairman Genachowski has proposed the addition of two new principles. The first would prevent ISPs from discriminating against particular content or applications, while allowing for reasonable network management. The second principle would ensure that ISPs are transparent about network management practices.So then why is Net Neutrality so important?The handwriting on the wall recently became apparent last week when the Comcast Corporation, the largest cable provider in the US and ISP to some 15 million customers, decided to to purchase NBC Universal in order to delve further upstream from the pipe that simply delivers content to the world where’s it created. It knows the future lies in streaming video-on-demand services with consumers increasingly wanting to watch content when and where they want. Since streaming is the future of content delivery it’s important that equal access be guaranteed to all – i.e. Net Neutrality – especially since ISPs enjoy regional monopolies around the country (try finding more than one broadband provider in your area).The free market, as the SGA argues, will not force Comcast to deliver content or offer online services from competitors.The SGA is right. Net Neutrality has nothing to do with determining lawful and unlawful conduct, but nor should it. ISPs shouldn’t be in the law enforcement business anymore than should telephone companies.With poor reasoning, incorrect facts, and short-sighted thinking it’s no wonder songwriters are losing money, but blaming everybody else for their ills is crossing the line, especially when they want private businesses to be responsible for determining what data people can or cannot transfer with one another.
... we must hold firm and punish them by refusing to purchase anything they sell,