1, 2, 3, 4, I Declare a Geek War

The online magazine The Register was nice enough to do an interview with me about some of the ideas in my book. As you’ll see if you look at the discussion about a blanket license, I don’t have all the answers. We need to make some serious decisions about how to fund culture in the digital age. But I think I’m asking some of the right questions. Here’s one: When did we start confusing Google’s interests with the public interest?



9 thoughts on “1, 2, 3, 4, I Declare a Geek War

  1. I will answer with a Joker quote from Batman: The Movie:

    “And now it’s time for: “Who do you trust?” Hubba, hubba, hubba! Money, money, money! Who do you trust? Me? I’m giving away free money.”

    Google has been giving away stuff to get public support for years. Fair enough, if it’s their own services, but a bit of a GRRR when they start giving away other people’s stuff – or helping third parties give away other people’s stuff. Not to mention staunch support for the notion that other people’s stuff should be given away for free.

    After all: “What’s good for M&M Enterprises Google, is good for your country!”

    Posted by Faza (TCM) | August 18, 2011, 9:35 pm
  2. “The book details the calamitous decisions made by the music business, particularly in its suing of end users for infringement. “In a few years,” he writes, “the major labels managed to destroy the cultural cachet they had spent decades building.”
    I love that line. I once spoke to the EMI CFO on this topic (I think i asked : Why do you think that suing our customers is a good strategy?) and he did not regard it as a good topic of conversation, or something that was open to scrutiny.
    I think he’s working on the London Olympics now.

    Posted by A Cow in Willesden | August 19, 2011, 2:44 am
    • Just to be clear, I think it was smart of the labels to sue _other businesses_, from Napster to the Pirate Bay. I just don’t think it was smart of them to sue individuals. I think they had every right to do so – I just think they lost so much sympathy that it hurt their chances of solving the problem in other ways/

      But let me ask you (all) a question: Do you think it would have been different if an independent artist has sued? What if an unknown band had sued Napster instead of Metallica? Or if an independent documentary filmmaker had sued individuals instead of major labels?

      Posted by roblevine1 | August 19, 2011, 7:13 am
      • Not really, for two reasons. The first is that the anti-copyright fundamentalists are the ones making the most noise in the debate, even though they are a very small group. The second is that a lot of people have no idea about how the media industry works. They think it consists of huge multi-nationals, while it is mostly run by small and medium businesses. They also think that all rock musicians are multi-millionaires. Metallica are, but the members of their fellow Bay Area Thrash colleagues Testament – probably the 5th or 6th biggest band in that genre – already have to work day jobs. And they think the cost of entertainment is in the physical product. I once had a discussion who thought music should be 10c per album, because recording had become really cheap. He was completely blind to the fact that most of the value is in the compositions.

        Posted by Martijn ter Haar | August 19, 2011, 10:10 am
      • It might have been somewhat better from a PR perspective, but I personally doubt that it would have changed anything in the end – apart from the lawsuit straining the independent artist’s finances even further.

        From my experience of conversing with copyright opponents (or file-bartering proponents, if you prefer) of the Average Joe type, I’ve come to think that cognitive dissonance is built into the anti-copyright mindset. A person is quite capable, it seems, to call for individual infringers to be responsible (with due process of the law being observed – whatever that’s supposed to mean) and at the same time think that suing individual users is wrong.

        Ellen Seidler is a good example of an independent creator who actually went public about her problems with combatting infringers – companies, mind you, not individual users – and she caught as much online flak as Metallica.

        There are so many possible anti-creator narratives, that a good piece of mud to fling at anyone asserting their rights – regardless of who they are – is always available.

        Posted by Faza (TCM) | August 19, 2011, 2:44 pm
      • I think it would have been different – it would have framed the debate with a more favourable paradigm (for the artist), and I think left a great more on the table in terms of what are acceptable means of enforcing artists’ rights. Swaying the public opinion is not enough on its own, but its an indicator of how legislators and courts will lean.
        Its hardly comparable though to compare action by an artist protecting their work, against the actions of a record label, already thought of as exploiters of artists. I doubt that if it was purely about artists’ rights the labels would have anything to say on the matter.
        I agree that it’s legitimate for a label to sue a for-profit organisation, I see a big moral gulf between that and suing individuals, particularly young people, students and lets face it music fans. I also think its despicable to pollute the file-sharing networks with viruses to try and extract a personal revenge on people who try and download without paying them.
        Fundamentally I think they should have just focussed attention on what the emerging market will do, and tryign to build a strategy around the future. Unfortunately, by the time I arrived there seemed to be no-one left at the top with even a vague interest in the music industry, all lawyers and accountants. Unsurprising that the responses centred on pricing and litigation.

        Posted by A Cow in Willesden | August 22, 2011, 12:17 am
  3. The invisible people in this scenario are of course the poor saps who pay for their music. While the media companies artists are taking a hit I expect that it is softened somewhat by hiking prices higher for the paying public.

    Posted by alangallery | August 27, 2011, 9:03 pm
  4. The reality is:
    If you’re pirating music (or anything for that matter..) YOU are not a customer, you’re a theif… and should be treated accordingly.

    I believe the biggest PR problem isn’t the fact that a couple of end-users were sued… it was the exorbinant amount in the judgement against an individual (deserved or not). There needs to be robust enforcement to change the status quo [the same way that when you notice a cop car on the side of the road, suddenly everyone’s driving under the speed limit..] but i believe there needs to be more nuance built into the sentencing. Full force for the facilitators, harsh fines for uploaders, and “speeding ticket” type fines for the downloaders.

    Once people start seeing that extra $200/per tacked onto their ISP bill, they’ll figure it’s cheaper to pay the darn one dollar…

    Posted by James_J | August 31, 2011, 8:24 pm

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"A wonderfully clear-eyed account of this colossal struggle over the future of our cultural lives."
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