Dear Mr. Congressperson

A pseudo-innocent letter. – Ed

The Senate Judiciary Committee has set up a number of webpages for resources and statements regarding digital media.

As I indicated in the previous article, the user comments received so far have left more than a bit to be desired.

So what I did was pretend I was sixteen years old again, and wrote a letter to my Congressperson.

Dear Mr. Congressperson

I hear that there’s bills in Congress out there that will make it illegal to make copies of music and movies and software.

I don’t understand.

I can listen to music on the radio. That’s not illegal. I can record a song off the radio onto a cassette tape, and I don’t think that’s illegal. I can tape a TV show with my dad’s VCR, and that’s OK.

So why are all those things OK but not this?

To me, downloading an MP3 is like listening to the radio. They sure don’t sound a lot better than listening to the radio, but it’s good enough for most songs. I download a lot of stuff, but most of it I end up not liking or I get tired of and not listening to.

But I do find some things I like I would never have heard on the radio, and sometimes I buy it.

I think the record companies forget that they mostly sell to kids, and kids have never had a lot of money.

If copying music is so bad, then why is it OK for companies to sell me equipment and tell me it’s OK to do it, but you tell me it isn’t? Shouldn’t you tell them, too?

I don’t understand.

If I go and buy a CD, if I’m lucky and get it on sale, it costs me $13, and if it isn’t, it costs me more than that. That’s a lot of money for a kid when I only like one or two songs from it. A whole movie on DVD doesn’t cost a lot more than that these days.

If I try to buy just the songs I like, it’s usually hard to even find them in singles, but even if I did, buying two singles cost about as much or even more than the album.

I don’t understand why it costs so much, either. The record companies say they have to pay for a lot of things, but then they turn around and take it from the artists.

Most of the artists don’t make any money from their records, even when they sell a whole lot of them. At least that’s what the record companies tell them.

I think a lot of these companies have funny accountants like the ones Enron had, except they do the opposite.

If you want to say it’s not OK to pay the record companies, I can see that, but then why is it OK for the record companies not to pay the artists?

I don’t understand.

Maybe CDs cost so much because we don’t just pay the artist and the record or movie company, but we also have to pay for things like making the CD and paying for all the record stores out there.

It seems to me that music downloads would be a lot cheaper for the record or movie company, but I bet they’ll try to charge the same amount and make even more money. Maybe someday it will cost less, but it took a long, long time for videos to become reasonably priced. I don’t want to wait until I get old and have kids before the prices go down.

I don’t understand.

I hear people talk about free markets and competition, but where is it in the record store? All the stores charge about the same. No record company ever tries to sell more albums or get better artists by lowering the price or giving artists a really good deal. This seems awfully funny to me.

So if you don’t like people stealing things, maybe you should be fair and look at all the stealing going on. Even the legal kind. Or at least tell me why I’m wrong.

I’ve downloaded software, too. Why not, there are all kinds of places that tell me to like it’s free, only to say that it costs money in small print.

Most of the time, I find out it doesn’t do what I want it to do, but if I ever bought it, I can never get my money back. Maybe now you can say this stop people from copying it and then returning it.

But if they come up with a way to stop that, shouldn’t they have to start giving me my money back when their product doesn’t do what I want or just plain stinks?

There’s some programs that are good, but they cost like $50, and maybe I only need to use them once or twice. That’s like buying an album with just one song I like, except that it costs a lot more, and I only listen to it once or twice a year. $50 would be OK if I used it every day, but not just once or twice. My Dad doesn’t have to buy a U-Haul truck when we move, he rents it. Why can’t I do the same?

I get to talk to kids from all over the world. Most of them have even less money than I have. Even some of their dads have less money than I have. But they tell me that this software costs even more in their countries than it does here, so everybody just makes copies and the copies even get sold in the stores.

Maybe I don’t know much about big business, but it seems to me that it would be better for the companies to get a little money from poor people than none at all. I don’t understand why these companies get so mad at me for making a copy, but seem to want people in other countries to steal.

Mr. Congressman, if you want to say what I’m doing is wrong, I can see that. But I don’t think I’m the only one doing wrong here. It’s not fair to look at what I’m doing and say I’m wrong and not look at some of the things I mentioned in this letter.

What’s wrong is wrong. Just don’t look at the wrong things kids do, look at the wrong things everybody else does, too. Even the adults working for big companies that send you campaign contributions.

It’s only fair.

Email Ed

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