Monday, March 21, 2011

"The Role and Responsibilities of Law Schools in the Deconstruction and Resurrection of the Music Industry"....Can I get some fries with that?

Upon reading the article cited above (I dare not re-type that overwrought title) I couldn't help but cringe a little at some of its implications. The main gist of the argument is that by rejecting innovative and rapidly evolving technologies, the music industry is and has been fighting a loo$ing battle when (lightbulB) law schools can provide the necessary ammunition to fight back for the sake of the artists. Hypothetically, this would be achieved  by making changes to copyright laws that protect the interests of the artist as well as providing free "law clinics" or "a series of organized forums [that] could take place across the world, videotaped and posted on the internet for viewing." This would then facilitate a dialogue which "would be presented as an industry-wide solution to problems." Cue the violins and John Lennon's "Imagine": the ammunition just turned into a down pouring of glitter. Speaking of glitter:

Frankly I just don't see this happening. In fact there is a substantial contradiction in the article that perfectly demonstrates the flaw of this argument. The authors point out that "Congress typically gives the most weight to those entities with the most industry clout and deepe$t pocket$" which, though unfair, indeed seems true, especially in this staunchly capitalist, free-market society. Yes there are laws and "special interest" organizations that protect the rights of minorities and individuals, but people don't always know or have access to these sorts of entities. (Example: How many women who are somewhat interested in politics and have thought about running for office know about EMILYs list? I didn't until a took a class on Women in Politics, which is still categorized as a special interest within the political science field, given it is not one of the "main" courses).

 Law schools could potentially lend a hand and make policy alterations that would benefit the recording artist and their respective label, but for me the problem lies in the lack of objectivity that would plague the man power it would take to organize something like the article proposes (namely some sort of "shopping meta-database" that stores information about artists and their music). The article freely admits that "at least some (for me that's a modest estimation) accept contributions from the very self-interested parties that would seek to sway any solutions. Moreover...many law schools depend on adjuncts and part-time professors, who work for and represent these self-interested parties, making influence possible." I would add that in this economy, the influence, or gross bias really, is more than possible: it is highly likely. Yes subjectivity is in many ways inescapable (and can be beneficial), but when your job requires you to be as level-headed, hard-working and as objective as possible without any form of compen$ation, "double vi$ion" (i.e. ambition) may start to kick in. In effect, the words "lawyer" and "ambitious" are practically synonymous. Asking that somebody dedicate time and effort into something for which they will not be paid is asking a lot.
 Believe me, I hate stereotypes about lawyers as much as the next person, especially as an aspiring law student but I'm afraid this one has some truth. Law $chool is expensive. Lawsuits are expensive. Maintaining a certain standard of living is expensive. Therefore, a lawyer's time and energy is expensive. So, asking that lawyers and potential lawyers provide a sort of pro bono service in order to "reconstruct" the music industry is a little like asking a cat to bark.

In all seriousness though, in this age of social Darwinism, should we really endow an institution that functions on the basis of monetary incentive (both for itself and clients) more leverage than it already has?

Furthermore, the law (as it stands and it was 'designed') simply cannot be updated at the pace of some of these newly developing technologies that are readily available to anyone with access to a computer, because as noted in the previous post, new media is asynchronous and highly personal, while the law is not. In order to pass a new law or modify an existing one, it (the law) must pass through an arduous and time-consuming process of acquiring a majority of votes and in many cases is vetoed and/or filibustered several times. The legislature functions, as we say with Opera, in lyric time,  meaning events unfold at a substantially slower pace (for dramatic effect) than real time.

I propose that since the debacle of the music industry was largely promulgated by surging (and in some ways re-surging) technologies, only those (same?) technologies can and should dissipate attention away from the waning sales, especially since the issue is not the music industry itself (which has become a symbol for capital and power really) but the actual artistic performers and how to acquire some form of copyright or compensation system that values their artistic expressions and the effects they have on society.
Law schools may help, but they can just as easily add fuel to the fire (and in many cases do), in which case instead of a resurrection, destruction and chaos would result.

Having too many Lawyers in a society is like having too many French fries: a select few are good but too many can be unhealthy.

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