16
Jan/03

My Cheap Shot At The NY Times


Amy Harmon wrote an article in today’s NY Times entitled “A Corporate Victory, but One That Raises Public Consciousness.”   One quote stuck out for me:

“In 1998, the [Act] was passed with hardly any debate after heavy lobbying by the Walt Disney Company . . . “

This set off a memory.  With the thanks of Nexis, a colleague, acting on my hazy recollection, was able to pull an article from the February 23, 1995 New York Times entitled “A Rights Movement With Song at Its Heart” (page 13, Section C).

The article described a meeting of a nonprofit group named Amsong, consisting of composers and children of composers, and indicated that it was lobbying Congress on behalf of proposed bills to extend copyright terms.  The president of Amsong, the daughter of Richard Rodgers, indicated that her organization was representing “. . .people who are putting a child through school on one song they wrote.”

The article does not indicate that copyright extension was to the benefit of large entertainment companies.  In fact, the only reference to externalities had the opposite inference: Amsong’s lawyer stated that “as works fell out of copyright, record companies and producers, freed from having to pay royalties, stand to reap a windfall  . . .”  There is no mention of Disney or any other entertainment company in the article, or to the fact that the products of the first era of American mass media, most notably Mickey Mouse, were hurtling towards the public domain.

I remember reading this article in 1995 thinking (1) how brilliant the PR strategy was, as this was the only human face of copyright extension; and (2) how amazingly unanalytical and uncritical the article was.

So is this a corporate victory which raises the NY Times’ Consciousness as well?

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