As I do interviews to promote my book, one of the questions I’m always asked is, “Where do we go from here?” Sometimes this is phrased more along the lines of, “OK, if you’re so smart, what can we do about this?”
Here’s the solution!
Well, maybe not. I think I have some interesting ideas about “how the culture business can fight back,” but I’m the first to admit that we’re just starting to make some serious decisions about how to balance the rights of various people in the online world. So far, the discussion has been pretty lame – entertainment conglomerates complain about “digital theft” while technology companies promote “free speech.” That’s not much of a conversation: I’d rather call copyright infringement by its proper name, and it’s important to realize that “the Framers intended copyright itself to be the engine of free expression,” in the words of a U.S. Supreme Court decision. On this level, what I really want to do is ask some important questions that have become lost in a lobbying struggle between creators and Big Search.
In a Salon interview that ran yesterday, I talk a bit about how we can balance the interests of various parties online. Many of the comments attack me for promoting the interests of big media companies, but I don’t see where I did that. I am defending the rights of creators to their work, which could favor companies or individuals, but that’s a very different thing. Besides, these days, the power has shifted to Silicon Valley. In 2010, Amazon spent more money to lobby Congress than the MPAA. The rallying cry of a free and open Internet has become a call to Leave No Venture Capitalist Behind. We deserve better.
In the last chapter of Free Ride – excerpted here in Billboard – I talk about how we might apply smart, light regulation to the Internet in a way that protects the rights of creators and consumers alike. We need to make sure the Internet will remain an open venue for free expression. At the same time, we need to impose some limits to protect the free speech rights of professional creators. As I say in the book, we should not dismantle the 300-year-old tradition of a market for creative work so the Internet can continue to work the way it did in 1995.