Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Did ATT censor Pearl Jam and can we trust them with the Internet?

Pearl Jam closed Lollapalooza in Chicago on Sunday night with what was by all accounts a rousing performance, but if you weren’t there you didn’t see the whole show. According to a Pearl Jam press release, ATT, which had the exclusive rights to webcast Lollapalooza via its “Blue Room,” silenced a piece of video from its live webcast that featured anti-Bush lyrics.

During the song “Daughter,” Eddie Vedder sang “George Bush leave this world alone" to the tune of “Another Brick in the Wall.” When he repeated the line again and then sang "George Bush find yourself another home" the sound was muted, even though it can clearly be seen Vedder was singing. The editing was first discovered by Pearl Jam fans, who notified the band.

According to the release, when asked about the incident, ATT told Lollapalooza that one of its content monitors had made a mistake. Whether it was a mistake or blatant censorship, the incident is a cautionary tale that shows what can happen when one company has unfettered control over Internet content.

Of course, ATT and other big telecoms have been pushing for several years to increase their control over Internet content. They want to create an Internet where they determine which web sites download the fastest. The Pearl Jam incident gets to the crux of why this is dangerous.

If this kind of incident happens during a webcast of a concert, imagine what type of power ATT or any other telecom might wield if they determined which web sites you are able to effectively access? Would they degrade access to web sites that feature political views they don’t agree with, or perhaps, ones that compete with their commercial interests? We don’t know and we don’t want to find out.

This is exactly why 713 musicians through the “Rock the Net” campaign, liberal groups like, conservative groups like the Christian Coalition, and thousands of others have been pushing for “net neutrality.” Net neutrality means the web remains a level playing field – no single company (or anyone else for that matter) has the power to block or degrade the download speeds of any web site.

We need a law or rules that positively affirm the principles that have made the Internet open and democratic. We shouldn’t wait until ATT or anyone else decides what we see, read or hear on the Internet. By then, we might not even know what we’re missing.

Here's the silenced version:

This is an unmuted version shot by a fan at the concert. The important section begins at the 1 minute mark:

1 comment:

Rob said...

The media consolidation epidemic is out of control. "We The People" can't allow AT&T to step into a totalitarian role as the gatekeeper of the Internet. This issue strikes at the very heart of the 1st Amendment. Join the fight w/ and check out my blog for more: