Show, Don’t Tell

by on October 25, 2006 · 32 comments

A coalition including the Consumer Electronics Association, Public Knowledge, and EFF have launched a digital freedom campaign. These are good groups and I’m always happy to see them highlighting an important set of issues, but frankly, if I weren’t already well versed on this controversy, I think I’d find their website a little bit confusing.

The campaign talks about innovators, artists, and consumers all having their freedom threatened. And it’s true: all of them can be harmed by aggressive expansions of copyright law. But the only concrete example the digital freedom campaign mentions is recording satellite broadcasts. As important as that issue is, that’s not likely to spark a nationwide backlash.

Oh, now that I’ve looked at the home page again, I see that clicking on the people causes them to tell their story. That’s pretty cool. They ought to make it more obvious that you’re supposed to click on the people, as it took me a good 10 minutes to figure that out, and most people visiting the site aren’t going to spend 10 minutes poking around.

Anyway, my point is that advocates for digital freedom (myself definitely included) need to do a better job of getting down to specifics in a way that’s accessible to ordinary people. I think EFF’s endangered gizmos and DRM guide sites are good examples. When you tell people that Hollywood almost got the VCR outlawed, that immediately gets peoples’ attention. There are now thousands of consumers who’ve discovered that their “plays for sure” music doesn’t play on their iPods. If we can tie those controversies back to the current debates over the PERFORM Act, the broadcast flag, the Boucher bill, etc, we can help voters clearly understand what’s at stake and why they should care.

But without those ties to specific examples, all the rhetoric about freedom and consumer rights in the world won’t get peoples’ attention. Voters have heard all the freedom rhetoric before, and it’s usually hogwash. I thought the middle guy–the aspiring filmmaker with the tape over his mouth–did a good job of offering a specific example of what’s at stake. But the other two, and most of the copy on the rest of the website, is just too vague to get anybody other than me fired up.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: