Since the New Deal of the '30s, federal policymakers and their staffs have had a thing for legislation acronyms -- from the WPA to the DMCA. These days, this shorthand is often useful and necessary in
Since the New Deal of the '30s, federal policymakers and their staffs have had a thing for legislation acronyms -- from the WPA to the DMCA.
These days, this shorthand is often useful and necessary in a town dotted with buildings housing the DOJ, FCC and HUD. But sometimes things go wrong.
By way of history, consider that the now-disgraced Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel, created by Congress in 1993, was shortened to CARP.
It's bad enough that the panel was given the name of a bottom-feeding fish, but that's nothing compared to what might have been its acronym.
The original full title of the part-time panel was the better-parsing Copyright Royalty Arbitration Panel. As it turns out, that hushed-up original acronym was apparently all too accurate.
Now, along comes a bill (introduced June 22) to snag peer-to-peer companies that prey on young "consumers" by inducing them to violate copyright law.
The staffers in the offices of Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the co-authors of the bill, wanted to call the measure the Induce Act.
Hatch's introductory comments on the floor of the Senate were serious, referencing literature and film.
"Artists realize that adults who corrupt or exploit the innocence of children are the worst type of villains. In 'Oliver Twist,' Fagin and Bill Sikes profited by inducing children to steal.
"In the film 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,' the leering Child-Catcher lured children into danger with false promises of free lollipops.
"Tragically, some corporations now seem to think that they can legally profit by inducing children to steal -- that they can legally lure children and others with false promises of 'free music.' "
So far, so good.
Then, however, a draft of the bill was circulated to Senate offices and the press with the Demosthenic title "the Inducement Devolves into Unlawful Child Exploitation Act of 2004."
Insiders say the labored mouthful immediately caused guffaws in government-relations offices all over Washington, and on the Internet as well. Opponents to the measure's serious content had a field day laughing down the title, especially the use of the seldom-employed word "devolves."
Some weighed in that the anonymous "namers" had not only come up with a nearly unpronouncable title, but one that carried an acronym that didn't even play by the rules of employing the first letter of each word.
"The subject is serious, whatever you think of it," chuckled one lobbyist, "but that goofy title might as well have honked like a duck."
On June 22, mysteriously, the bill no longer carried the mouthful title, but the trimmed-down full name "Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act of 2004."
IICA. Pure poetry.
Bill Holland is Billboard's Washington, D.C., bureau chief.