Former RIAA Exec Calls Fair Use a Sham

Former RIAA Exec Sharply Criticizes Fair Use Week and its Supporters
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Former RIAA Exec Sharply Criticizes Fair Use Week and its Supporters
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Altor Kaltzakorta Belaustegi (CC by 2.0)

According to this former RIAA executive, “No, fair use is not fair.” Does the entire RIAA think the same way? Should we worry?

IAA Executive Vice President, International, Neil Turkewitz stepped down from the organization after 29 years of service. According to Cary Sherman, RIAA Chairman and CEO, Turkewitz “truly left his mark on the music world.” Yet, he didn’t step aside from the limelight completely. Now, in honor of Fair Use Week, Turkewitz had some not-so-kind words for supporters.

In a post titled Fair Use, Fairness and the Public Interest, Turkewitz started his post, writing,

“Let’s begin by unmasking the false premise underlying much of the celebration of fair use.  — that is, that the basic objective of the copyright system is to achieve a balance between the “public interest” on the one hand, and the interest of private copyright owners on the other.”

He starts off his post outright attacking the “public interest.” He defines the interest as the ability to “get copyrighted materials as cheaply as possible.” Obviously, for Turkewitz, free counts as the best option, since it doesn’t cost a thing.

Once done defining public interest, he then goes on a tirade against organizations that celebrate fair use. Those, like the EFF, Public Knowledge, and re:Create, who champion fair use, consider copyright protection and the public interesting “diametrically opposed.” In employing this argument, these organizations employ rhetorical devices and are a “complete fallacy.” In fact, per Turkewitz, they simply demonize copyright. In an almost mocking, self-serving tone, he writes,

They say that they care about “creativity,” and that fair use is critical to the interests of society.

Going further, he declares his position outright against these organizations.

“Copyright owners agree, but unlike most declared champions of fair use, not only do we care about creativity as an abstract concept, but we actually care about creators and preserving the creative process… But standing on the shoulders of giants doesn’t require misappropriation, and anyone who tells you differently is selling something.”

Turkewitz continues his attack, this time against “and its allies”.  He considers their fair use argument as merely a useful slogan “that has little to do with fairness.”

“Many of those that celebrate fair use draw upon the sympathetic environment for considering expressive/transformative uses…but apply them to consumptive uses that lack social value. This results in championing economic inefficiency while using the language of freedom.

If attacking fair use organizations and their allies weren’t enough, he mocks the idea of fair use. He writes that no, fair use hasn’t inspired anyone, and no, fair use doesn’t capture our imaginations. Original creative expression, unlike fair use, actually accomplishes both things. Turkewitz states,

“…if we fail to produce cultural artifacts worth accessing, fair use becomes irrelevant. We have no interest in accessing that which we don’t value.”

Ending his attack on fair use and its allies, he writes, why not celebrate a week to sustain creativity? He then sums up his argument with a final thought.

“If we can succeed in allowing creators to earn a living from their craft, we will have greatly advanced the public interest, and produced a wealth of accessible cultural materials that enrich present and future generations. Now that would be something to celebrate.”

8 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    I think fair use is important, and should remain in the copyright law. However, we should take steps ensure that fair use continues to be limited to what it was originally intended to cover, no more or less. To the extent new technology creates ambiguities in that regard, perhaps it’s worth looking at the laws to see if they need to be updated.

  2. FarePlay

    Fair Use is without question a slippery slope, hard to define.

    But what caught my attention was characterizing the EFF and Public Knowledge as “champions” of fair use, two organizations diametrically opposed to the concept of copyright. Who can only be characterized as anti-artist.

    In addition to supporting fair use, which they really see as another way to circumvent copyright, they support outright piracy.

    If anythink these organizations are proponents of “free use” and I agree with Neil that ultimately, the creator and fan suffers when artists can’t make money from their “original” works.

    If it was so easy to create wholly original work would we even be having this discussion.

  3. Remi Swierczek

    FAIR USE is allowing SHAZAM, Google (the biggest Shazam) and few more music and lyric ID outfits, all but Google, BROKE ON LIFE SUPPORT OF STUPID INVESTORS pimping music for free to the society of FREELOADERS.

    Finally someone within the industry is on my $300B music business bandwagon!

  4. PirtatesR U

    Fair use is a scam. Period. Wiped out the middle class of music. Small percentage of Tech stole everything, kept all the money.

  5. rikki

    My bet is at 29 years you can withdraw your pension in cash or roll over to an ira tax free at 30 years you get a monthly check.