The Offspring is to Sony as Bertelsmann is to the RIAA

Officially, Sony is party to the Recording Industry Assn. of America’s campaign of crushing the little people under its jackboot wiping out online music piracy. (They purpose is the latter; the effect is the former.)

The Offspring are signed to the Sony label, and are all but owned by Sony.

The Offspring break ranks and plot to post an entire album in MP3 for free download.

It’s hailed for brilliance inside Sony, but the suits win: We’ve got to look like we’re still onboard with the RIAA pogrom education campaign. The chink in the armour is, however, publicly revealed.

Bertelsmann, in the form of its mighty BMG label, is party to the RIAA action. But it breaks ranks and “inks” a deal with Napster.

Universal Music, ever farther and farther removed from slinging velvet-bagged gin, is also along for the RIAA’s ride, but signs a unique deal with

How many chinks in the armour are there now?

There’s a precedent for this, and it’s found in one of our little obsessions: Accessibility.

Officially, the Motion Picture Association of America is opposed to any legislated increase in captioning or audio description on television. (The MPAA has made endless filings to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, whose Web site is so disorganized and broken that we cannot provide you with links. Take our word on it here.) The MPAA, while happy to dub and subtitle its films for foreign markets, is adamantly and irrationally opposed to captioning and audio description in first-run movie houses in the U.S. – even the Rear Window system, which doesn’t bother anyone on the cinema who doesn’t need the access features, is something the MPAA merely wishes to “study.”

The problem? Every MPAA member with television interests already captions its shows. Every studio captions its home-video releases. A number of studios license their home videos to the Descriptive Video Service and the RNIB for separate release with always-audible descriptions. Basic Instinct and T2 actually came out on DVD (in Region 1) with audio description. MPAA member studios sponsor and support Rear Window captioning and description; at least one new title comes out every month.

Shockingly powerful, seemingly dictatorial cartels like the MPAA and RIAA are like repressive societies everywhere: Small-scale issues not central to the party platform may be officially opposed, but they flourish behind the scenes, sometimes quite openly.

The RIAA can set out to win various legal canards, but the gig is up. The behind-the-scenes flourishing is no longer behind the scenes.

Posted on 2000-11-16