Lileks: Bieber on Klobuchar: Jail him, er, her over Web proposal

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 3, 2011 - 7:14 PM

Justin Bieber says Mister Senator Klobuchar should be sent to jail. Informed that the senator has a bill that would slap felony charges on people who upload copyright material to make a buck, he called her a "guy," then, upon learning such niggling particulars as her gender, he added, "Whoever she is, she needs to know that I'm saying she needs to be locked up, put away in cuffs."

There's a reason the Constitution maintains a strict wall of separation between the legislative and the singing branches of society: Entertainers are often too busy figuring out new ways to express primordial desires to get up to speed on the details of the law.

Bieber was asked by an interviewer about legislation sponsored by Sen. K that would make it a felony to profit from streaming copyright stuff. He was under the mistaken impression the law would affect ordinary folk who sing songs and put them on YouTube. It does not. (To which one says: Well, there's a missed opportunity.) It's just going after crooks.

Will it work? People already download this stuff from people who aren't making a profit. They think they're entitled to it, because it's ... well, it's just out there, and no one's getting hurt.

A sizeable portion of Internet users believe paying for anything on the Internet violates the spirit of the Web; it should be an Old Country Buffet that not only doesn't charge, but doesn't mind if you bring in a bucket and load up the potato salad for later.

The law might be overreaching -- YouTube already scans your uploads for copyright stuff and yanks the accounts of people who pirate -- and it'll do nothing about the great sewers of piracy that thrive in Europe.

But it reminds people that stuff costs money for a good reason. It costs money to make the stuff, and the people who make it often have this strange, stubborn desire to NOT STARVE.

Which brings us to the Star Tribune's new online limitations. (Bieber had no comment on this.)

At StarTribune.com, you now get 20 free stories a month. More if you subscribe. I support this, because A) butter is expensive, and B) I know which side of my bread gets the rich creamery butter that allows for indulgences like "the mortgage" and "gas" and "non-metaphorical butter."

Seriously, it's a nice balance between simply locking out all non-paying customers and giving things away in the hopes website visitors will finally click on that online ad. (One weird old tip to lose stubborn belly fat? Tell me more! Might it involve a poultice of weasel musk and cloves? Color me piqued!)

As for the 20-story limit, I write at least 12; hope you spend the remaining eight wisely.

Still, some people aren't happy with the restrictions. If you don't give it away, you run the risk that people who used to read the site all day won't spend as much time there, and you won't get as many eyeballs for the ads. (Risking butter, a confession: I do hate when I roll over an ad and it EXPANDS and I have to find the little box to click and make it go away. That is a problem, but you have to admit it pales in comparison with, say, suffering from dysentery in an African village. This is why I am not in charge of media strategies, because IT WOULD BE WORSE IF YOU HAD DYSENTERY would not be an effective slogan for the paywall roll-out.)

But back to Bieber: It's possible some people would come up with ingenious ways around Sen. K's new law.

They could read copyright articles out loud and post them on YouTube. Set to copyright music, no less.

If you know YouTube, you know a tiny ad will pop up there offering a great deal on tires. People will click on that ad, because as we all know when you're looking at a video, not thinking about tires, you see an ad about tires and think WHOA! HOLD EVERYTHING! Then people will click on the ad and realize there's a place in Stillwater that has a 4-for-3 sale, and they won't finish listening to the story about sewer improvements in Blaine.

So if that happens, yes, Bieber has a point. But otherwise, no.

(NOTE to online editors: Give this the title JUSTIN BIEBER IS DEAD and then put "dead wrong" in the subhead. Guaranteed you'll get some signups from people over the 20-story limit with that. P.S.: BE SURE TO REMOVE THIS PARAGRAPH BEFORE POSTING!!!)

jlileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858 More daily at www.startribune.com/popcrush.

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