The “Reefer Madness” of Music Downloading

A new video being promoted to college administrators exhorts students not to engage in illegal music downloading. The web site for the group promoting the video, “,” does not identify its sponsors, but some quick sleuthing on WHOIS shows that the site is registered by Widmeyer Communications, a big DC PR firm. The content, including some oversimplified and slanted explanation of the law, bears the hallmarks of the recording industry.

If so, then I cannot understand how the most powerful youth-marketing juggernaut in the history of humanity is unable to make a video on this subject that does not reek like a modern-day Reefer Madness. Almost every element of it is ham-fisted. I am confident that any college administrator screening this thing for students would be met with snickers and howls of derision. Among its many problems is the overdramatic “fear and danger” music, the fact that it is obviously filmed in Washington (the belly of this particular beast), and the trying-but-failing-to-be-cool narrator, whose earnestness is way too Student Council. In places it is so cliche that I thought it might actually reveal itself as a parody — but no, it’s real.

This is the parody!

Widmeyer does a lot of work for the federal government, so maybe this is a Department of Education product. If so, the corniness is much easier to understand — but then the mystery surrounding its sponsorship is even more inexplicable. Anyone out there know its provenance?

It is alarming how badly the discourse around the ethics of downloading has degenerated into a polarized generation gap in which both sides have got it wrong.

[Hat tip to several participants in the CyberProf list-serv.]

One Response to “The “Reefer Madness” of Music Downloading”

  1. Very interesting, cool.