Strange bedfellows: artists look to regulators for help

It’s funny how one time enemies can become allies. For years, the FCC was always the enemy of the artist, censoring for outdated reasons at what seemed like the drop of the hat. Meanwhile in Canada, the CRTC was an ineffective though annoying entity that was supposed to defend the interests of Canadian content creators but instead only helped Canadian networks make money off American shows.

Old foe of the artists: FCC logo

Fast-forward to today, where pretty much all media seems to be moving online. The CRTC is still ineffective and playing the same game when it comes to helping only the distributors while the FCC has gone from this:

to the last hope for independent voices to get their message out in the US.

Net Neutrality, the principle that all content on the internet can be accessed equally, has been threatened recently by internet service providers throttling users in Canada and blocking certain types of content in the US. In Canada, the CRTC ruled that ISPs couldn’t throttle users except as a “last resort” while the FCC, under the guidance of Barack Obama, ruled that Comcast couldn’t block certain content.

As ineffective as always: CRTC logo

Unfortunately, a US Federal Appeals Court ruled that the FCC didn’t have the proper authority to make such a ruling. This is unfortunate for all independent artists and content producers in the US and those looking for an audience in the states. It also sets a bad precedent for other countries because of the influence American culture has on the rest of the western world.

Even though the ruling in question dealt specifically with a company blocking users of Bit Torrent, the principle is what really matters. If you allow ISPs the right to decide what content people can and can’t access, what’s to stop them from blocking content from competitors or using their power to make it, once again, a battle for those without funding or with “undesireable” ideas just to get their stuff seen, read or heard.

The Young Turks explain this pretty succinctly:

and Democracy Now goes into greater detail on how this ruling may turn out to work against Comcast and other like-minded ISPs by forcing the government to give the FCC full authority to regulate the internet:

While the thought of more regulation may seem a little scary, the thought of profit-minded companies, some of them with their own media interests, being allowed to determine what content is accessible is even more frightening as it would destroy the great equalizing power of the internet. In fact, you might not even be able to watch the two clips above or read this article if Net Neutrality is done away with.

So, for now, independent content creators and agencies like the FCC and CRTC have to live as strange bedfellows.

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