During the week I keep up with the news on my smartphone – but come Sundays in the fall I get nostalgic for old media. I settle in with a cup of coffee, turn on a football game, and wade through the print edition of the venerated New York Times.
Update 6/17: A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Friday, June 21 (MEET DIRECTLY AT CHURCH) at 10:30 am at St. Thomas Aquinas, 1719 Post Road, Fairfield CT 06824. Burial will be private. Friends and family may call on Thursday, June 20 from 4 to 8 pm at the Cody-White Funeral Home, 107 Broad St., Milford, CT 06460. In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions in Arthur’s honor to Sofia’s college fund. College America fbo Sofia Yann, American Funds Service Company, PO BOX 2713, Norfolk, VA 23501-2713
As the public relations industry grows in size and stature, it is coming under increasing scrutiny by the public, media and government. But not all scrutiny is bad, especially if it helps broaden the understanding of a profession and advances its role and value.
Twice in the past year there have been investigations into public relations spending by the federal government. The most recent was launched in late February by Senator Claire McCaskill (D–Mo.) and Senator Rob Portman (R–Ohio), who have triggered a wide-ranging investigation of the federal government’s use of public relations and advertising services. At the initial stages of this inquiry the Subcommittee is seeking data for the past five years pertaining to “contracts for the acquisition of public relations, publicity, advertising, communications, or similar services” at 11 separate Federal agencies. We have our concerns, which we expressed directly with the Senators and through an op–ed published in Roll Call.
It isn’t surprising that government spending on public relations is being scrutinized during times of economic austerity, when politicians of all stripes compete to be the most prudent with taxpayers’ funds. Such scrutiny — if conducted fairly and objectively — may prove valuable for public relations.
Unbeknownst to most Americans, Washington has been waging copyright and intellectual property battles for years, many of which I witnessed while working for the Motion Picture Association of America (a SOPA and PIPA supporter) and, now, PRSA (a SOPA and PIPA opponent). Having seen the issue from both sides, I’m in a unique position to provide what has so far been missing from this debate: a balanced perspective.
As you may have noticed, the one constant throughout the current debate over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) has been hyperbole, with each side insisting a legislative defeat would be ruinous to the economy, innovation and American competitiveness. It reminds me of 1982, when former MPAA CEO Jack Valenti famously testified to Congress that, “The VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone!”
But even as both sides have claimed victories in the battles that comprise the larger war, none of the predicted gloom and doom has come to pass. It’s business as usual for most, if not all, the major players involved.
The root cause of this war is a complex matter that confuses many, and bores most. At its core, the concept of copyright as codified in U.S. law is this: the creators of works are entitled to a limited period of time during which they have the exclusive right to use and profit from their work. (This same concept was expressed a bit differently by Samuel Johnson, who famously wrote, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”)
At the same time, it is generally understood that, at a certain point, public good results from works being released from their copyrights and that, in certain cases, “fair use” should allow for the use of copyrighted materials without the permission of copyright owners.
While these principles are generally agreed to by all, how they should be interpreted — especially as technology continues to evolve — has created endless wrangling and debate. In overly simplistic terms, copyright owners — many times large corporations that have invested hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars developing their works — would like to see protection of their copyrighted assets extended forever. On the other side of the argument, companies who benefit from the use, hosting and sharing of copyrighted works prefer liberal use without permission (or at least that someone other than them be charged with enforcement, when copyright laws are broken).
Editor’s Note: Throughout the ongoing discussion regarding a proposed dues increase, some PRSA members have expressed interest in better understanding the value of PRSA National. In a May 2011 column in Public Relations Tactics, William M. Murray, CAE, PRSA president and chief operating officer, offered insight and commentary on the value of National and the role it plays helping PRSA’s 114 chapters and its 22,000 professional members succeed daily.
We spend a lot of time at PRSA thinking about member value and looking for ways to keep member satisfaction at its presently high level. One question that people occasionally ask me pertains to the value that our members receive from PRSA National, relative to the value that they receive from their local Chapters.
As the relationship between PRSA and its Chapters is cooperative, complementary and mutually beneficial, it’s sometimes difficult to know exactly where the value of National membership ends and the value of Chapter membership begins.
It’s a fair question — one that merits further exploration here. And perhaps the best way to answer this is by considering what our profession might look like without PRSA National.
Without a national organization knitting together PRSA’s Chapter network, there would be essentially 114 local PR organizations of different sizes, philosophies and membership criteria. Each former Chapter would be separate and distinct from other Chapters, as well as from similar organizations.
The members of these new organizations would have far fewer professionals to network with — most likely several hundred locally, compared with the 22,000 members of PRSA nationally.
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PRSAY is a forum for PRSA members and other public relations professionals to engage in a dialogue with PRSA leaders, exchange viewpoints, and share perspectives on issues of concern to the Society and the public relations industry as a whole. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policies or positions of PRSA.