Government Censorship vs. Private Censorship

A quick thought on the KSFO/Spocko controversy (HT How Appealing, apologies for linking to USA Today). The basic story is that an anonymous blogger has been posting particularly inflammatory clips from KSFO's local conservative radio hosts* on the Internet, and sending them to the sponsors of the station and its parent company (Disney). ABC/Disney retaliated by threatening to sue Spocko, or at least his ISP, for copyright infringement. The EFF guy quoted in the article correctly notes that Spocko's conduct is basically the reason fair use was invented, so the company doesn't have much of a case (and, indeed, appears to have dropped the litigation).

Okay, so this isn't a quick thought. Anyway, the dichotomy of the parties' respective conduct is interesting. ABC is trying to silence Spocko using the courts, and Spocko is (essentially) trying to silence the KSFO hosts by cutting off their funding. Using the machinery of government to stifle speech is intuitively more offensive than targeting advertisers. But, given the reality of mass media, in which very little can be said without corporate sponsorship, Spocko's crusade may have its own warts. In other words, when "private" action actually occupies most of a particular aspect of society (think HMOs and home owners associations), the public/private censorship distinction begins to break down.

Ultimately, however, Spocko is using speech against speech, which is Good for America(TM). Thank goodness for the Internet.

* KSFO is somewhat unique in that its programming doesn't consist entirely of piped-in syndicated radio hosts, but has a great deal of homegrown crazy to fill out the day.

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This page contains a single entry by hb published on January 25, 2007 8:47 PM.

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