I knew a bit about Congressman Howard Berman, since he’s the representative for my home state, California, but I’d never heard of Congressman Howard Coble (R-North Carolina) until I learned he was Berman’s co-sponsor for the so called “Peer to Peer Piracy” bill.
Here’s a list of Coble’s top eleven contributors (via PACs and other forms of contributions):
Assn of Trial Lawyers of America $10,000 Winston & Strawn $5,515 Recording Industry Assn of America $5,374 National Assn of Broadcasters $5,360 ASCAP $5,000 National Assn of Realtors $5,000 Teamsters Union $5,000 Wal-Mart Stores $5,000 GlaxoSmithKline $4,999 National Cable Television Assn $4,999 American Intellectual Property Law Assn $4,000
You will note that the list features several large entertainment corporations, with vested interests in controlling intellectual policy, including the Recording Industry Academy of America (RIAA) who might as well have written the bill themselves, The National Association of Broadcasters, ASCAP, and the National Cable Television Association. You will notice that the top two positions are occupied by the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, and Wallace and Strawn, a law firm who represents Euro Disney, and Microsoft (Palladium chip anyone?). In fact, just as with Howard Berman, the two industries that are responsible for most of Coble’s funding are:
Lawyers/Law Firms $35,515 TV/Movies/Music $33,483
Now, I can see that Coble would likely always have a sizeable percentage of his money coming from lawyers and law firms since he’s on the Judiciary committee. But last year the top industries his monies came from were Pharmaceuticals/Health, and Lawyers and Law firms, with TV/Movies/Music the third. Do I think he’s representing the voters of North Carolina when he sponsored this bill? No, I really don’t. He may think he is, having been informed by the relentless lobbies of the entertainment industry that what’s good for them and for attorneys (who always win when litigation is involved) is good for his constituents.
I also suspect that, like many people who have little or no exposure to digital technology, and who don’t actively use it themselves, Senators Coble and Berman must depend on the information they are given—and right now, that information is not coming from end users, it’s filtered through the paranoid neuroses of the RIAA, who not only don’t want files to circulate, they want to be able to control digital technology, instead letting users control their own hardware and software.