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The Newest Stalkers on MySpace? Collection Agencies

Wednesday, April 22, 2009
From Reuters:

"With record defaults on consumer loans, collection agencies in the United States are going to extra lengths to recover the money. Illinois resident and Mercedes driver James Ricobene says an agency hired by JP Morgan Chase left a post on his daughter's MySpace page threatening action that could lead to prison, unless she contacted the agency within five days about its efforts to repossess her father's car. Ricobene has sued the collection agency and JP Morgan for libel, fraud and invasion of privacy."

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Cop Provides Sex Offender With "Slutty" Photos of High School Girl

Thursday, August 21, 2008
An internet safety program presented by John F. Gay, III at a high school in Windsor, Colorado has outraged parents by singling out students' MySpace pages for criticism. According to the DenverChannel.com:
A police officer giving an Internet safety course sparked criticism for calling student MySpace pages "slutty" and telling one student a sexual predator in prison masturbated to her photo.

[ . . . ]

One female student was told by Gay that he shared her online personal info with an (sic) state inmate who said he gratified himself with her photo and would "tear her apart."
The student, who was singled out, left the assembly in tears. That's when Gay showed her telephone number that he got from the Internet and called her. He hoped to show how easy it is for anyone to track down someone posting personal information on MySpace or other social-networking sites.
[Full Story]

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Like Everything Else, the Internet Will Fall Into the Hands of the Few, Report Says

Wednesday, June 4, 2008
From Reuters:

"An Internet analyst for a major Wall Street firm argues in a new report that Google Inc and Amazon.com Inc will be long-term winners, while Yahoo and IAC InterActiveCorp fall by the wayside and eBay Inc becomes a merger target.

Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Jeffrey Lindsay argues in a 310-page report entitled "U.S. Internet: The End of the Beginning" to be published on Tuesday that Google and Amazon are best placed to withstand the current economic downturn."

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Don't Bring Your iPod to Canada

Wednesday, May 28, 2008
From Canada.com:

"The federal government is secretly negotiating an agreement to revamp international copyright laws which could make the information on Canadian iPods, laptop computers or other personal electronic devices illegal and greatly increase the difficulty of travelling with such devices."

"The deal would create a international regulator that could turn border guards and other public security personnel into copyright police. The security officials would be charged with checking laptops, iPods and even cellular phones for content that "infringes" on copyright laws, such as ripped CDs and movies."

"Anyone found with infringing content in their possession would be open to a fine...They may also have their device confiscated or destroyed, according to the four-page document."

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Music Industry Seeks 'Piracy Tax'

Monday, March 17, 2008
From Wired.com:

"In recent months, some of the major labels have warmed to a pitch by Jim Griffin...to seek an extra fee on broadband connections and to use the money to compensate rights holders for music that's shared online...Griffin's idea is to collect a fee from internet service providers -- something like $5 per user per month -- and put it into a pool that would be used to compensate songwriters, performers, publishers and music labels. A collecting agency would divvy up the money according to artists' popularity on P2P sites, just as ASCAP and BMI pay songwriters for broadcasts and live performances of their work."
[Full story]

Like most people, I share Mr. Griffin's concern for musicians and other creative artists receiving financial recompense for their work. However, his "pitch" strikes me as an extraordinarily bad idea. Ostensibly, as internet users, we would not be punished for our misdeeds in such a scenario. Instead, ISPs will be charged a few dollars each month for not preventing us from downloading music (and, I would assume, other media) illegally. Now ISPs, as money-making enterprises, would have to find a way to minimize the fiscal blow such a fee would entail. So far, so good. The next logical step, of course, would be for the ISPs in question to increase advertising rates and/or our monthly subscription costs.

Assuming that ISPs pass at least some of the monthly charges onto internet users via increased subscription rates, I would imagine that we will see several different reactions among consumers, including: A) people who dismiss the fee as "nominal"; B) people who, having spent money downloading music through iTunes and similar services, will resent paying "extra" for music they have already purchased; C) people who will view the charge as license to download music with impunity; and D) people who have no interest in downloading music and feel "punished" for the behavior of total strangers, folks who feel adding such a fee would almost be like asking someone buying a blank audio cassette to record his or her newborn's first words to pay extra for someone dubbing a Sheila E. record.

There is the very real possibility that people falling into groups B and D would respond to added fees by canceling their internet service (an admittedly unlikely scenario) or, at the very least, ceasing to purchase music (and other media) through established, legitimate channels. Whether or not such concerns will affect the choices record companies make regarding the dissemination of music and the payment of royalties, a surcharge will undoubtedly alienate consumers already skeptical about the business practices of companies widely considered avaricious. The way I see it, quite a few people willingly pay a dollar or two for a song download through companies like iTunes or Amazon. I, for instance, often spend several times the proposed "piracy surcharge" each month purchasing legitimate downloads--and I know of many, many other people who do the same. That five dollar add-on, I suspect, will push many of us away from "legal" channels, thereby weakening the cash flow record companies currently enjoy.

Of course, I am not an economist. I do suspect, however, that if such a surcharge is universally adopted by ISPs, record companies would earn more money than if we all kept buying music. Otherwise, why would anyone want to risk angering consumers? I mean, seriously, if record companies really want to go in that direction, they had better be certain that five bucks per internet user per month will bring more revenue than all other modes of music distribution combined because, once the "pirate tax" is implemented, they can kiss all that other revenue goodbye. After all, who would willingly give money to someone taking it against our will?

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