The Register is a tech news web site based out of England that I peruse occassionally. I do it primarily for the sometimes funny commentary (ya want funny? BBSpot does it a million times better), I don't rely on them for news. They have been known to get so enthusiastic about something that some facts will slip by them, leaving people who use them as a source looking extremely foolish. There are times, though, when their point of view is like a lot of political views in the US -- oversimplified to the point of, if they got their way, there'd be more damage than good accomplished.
Today is a good example. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge have filed briefs in support of AT&T because the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers is suing over ringtones. The ASCAP says that a ringtone going off constitutes a public performance and they should be paid for it. AT&T, the EFF, and Public Knowledge say that's bullshit and an absurd extreme, to boot.
El Reg is saying they are disappointed in EFF and PK because, by siding with AT&T, they are supporting a big company screwing the little guy, in this case music composers, out of money they have a right to.
Now, yes, I think people should be paid for their work. The problem is how the ASCAP is going about it. This is that "end justifies the means" bullshit that is killing off any creative field like the comic industry.
Okay, so a songwriter wants to be paid because someone uses a few bars of, say, "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" for a ringtone. But the only way to do it is to create a dangerous precident that erodes rights that are already under attack. It's like the game "Fighter's Destiny" -- a judge ruled the game was a rip-off of Street Fighter II, but the relief Capcom wanted would have given them exclusive rights over every one-on-one fighter ever made, as well as the ability to sue over them all. Given his only options were to unfairly expand Capcom's claims of ownership or let Data East get away, he let Data East skate. Not the best solution, but the best one he was presented with.
El Reg is basically saying that, in order to give songwriters what they deserve, the EFF and PK should be supporting the Content Mafia and their shakedown tactics. This disregards 1) how much of the money the ASCAP will actually pass on to the songwriters once they take their cut and 2) for all the griping about how AT&T is a Big Evil Corporation (which I won't deny), the ASCAP is also a Big Evil Corporation, they just are a voluntary collective instead of a buy-and-sell entity. The lesser of two evils is still evil, and just because a company does bad things doesn't mean they should get screwed when they are clearly not in the wrong.
Sorry, El Reg, but you are really missing the point this time.