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Florida: Still on the cutting edge of stupid

May 9, 2007

Permit me a chance to stray from Free/Libre Open Source Software topics for a second to touch on something that came across the proverbial radar thanks to Slashdot.

Ken Fisher wrote an article in Ars Technica outlining that “there are a few things lawmakers have decided really ought to be handled with the ‘care and oversight’ that only the government can provide: e.g., tax collection, radioactive materials, biohazards, guns, and CD . . . Compact Discs.”

Yep, Compact Discs. You never know what dangers lurk on those shiny silver coasters.

It seems that “pawn shop” laws are springing up across the United States will, according to Fisher, “make selling your used CDs at the local record shop something akin to getting arrested. No, you won’t spend any time in jail, but you’ll certainly feel like a criminal once the local record shop makes copies of all of your identifying information and even collects your fingerprints.”

Fisher continues: “Such is the state of affairs in Florida, which now has the dubious distinction of being so anal about the sale of used music CDs that record shops there are starting to get out of the business of dealing with used content because they don’t want to pay a $10,000 bond for the ‘right’ to treat their customers like criminals.”

Now, Florida and I have a, um, “history” since I grew up there before escaping about 20 years ago to the left side of the United States, not to mention cutting my political teeth in the Florida Young Democrats (an old YD acquaintance is now the speaker of the Florida House, interestingly). All of which is to say that I know first hand the less-than-cutting-edge nature of legislation common to the Sunshine State (to say nothing of the volumes of data on the inability of the Secretary of State there to hold elections, but that’s another topic).

So why does legislation like this happen?

Simple: This kind of legislation kills aftermarket sales for CDs, so there is no recourse for those who buy CDs and later on want to, or must, part with them. This clearly has the RIAA’s fingerprints all over it: They may bet profit from the first sale, but they get zero profit from aftermarket sales. If they can’t get the profit from each and every sale, then they feel that nobody should.

So says one comment on Slashdot: “And the reason why we’re just going to bend over and take it is the same reason why we’re grabbing ankles for the DMCA: The politicians that make the laws were bought and paid for a long time ago and they aren’t available for purchase in the aftermarket.”

So the solution? Stop stupid legislation and vote stupid legislators out of office, even in Florida (if that’s possible).

[FSF Associate Member](Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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