(Downhill Battle) Recycling starts today (2/1/2004) at TuneRecycler.com, beginning right after the Patriots beat the Panthers in the Super Bowl. During the game, Pepsi will be airing an ad for the iTunes promotion that features 16 of the children who were sued by the major record labels for filesharing. It’s a perfect cycle: now that these kids and their families have been put in debt by the major labels, they have to sell themselves in a soda commercial to make back some of what they owe.
But the ad isn’t just exploitative, it’s also wildly inaccurate. A girl in the ad says, “I’m one of the kids who was prosectued for downloading music free off of the internet.” And throughout the commercial, the words “busted”, “charged”, “incriminated”, and “accused” flash across the screen (you can watch the ad here). Now, while “busted” and “accused” might be ambigious enough to apply to these lawsuits, no one was “prosecuted” or “charged” with any crime. Actually, none of the filesharing lawsuits has even gone to court, because the cost of mounting a defense against the major record labels is far too expensive for an individual or family. Furthermore, none of these kids or anyone else was sued for “downloading music”; all the suits have been for uploading, which can be easily turned off in the settings of any filesharing program (here’s how according to Charter Communications). In fact, there haven’t been any court rulings in the US that prohibit downloading music and the Canadian government has explicitly ruled that downloading is legal.
Implying criminality is serious business. As reported on p2pnet.net, Josh Wattles, a lawyer and the former acting general counsel of Paramount Pictures, has said of the Pepsi ad “Falsely attributing criminal conduct to someone is a slam-dunk libel in just about every state…There’s no calculus of relative harm to justify this kind of abusive, untruthful and cynical behavior towards minors no matter how complicit their misguided parents may have been in this deception.”
The ad’s final insult is that the background music is a Green Day cover of “I fought the law (and the law won)”. Now, we have never accused a band of selling out before, it’s counter-productive and puritanical. With the extent of major label domination in the music business, artists often have to compromise, and it’s usually not their fault. But when Green Day, a punk band, covers a song about “fighting the law” for a soda commercial that cashes in on kids getting screwed by record companies, that is some serious sell-out bullshit.