This article originally appeared in the 8.8.13 issue of Metroland
2005, I’ve been popping up here more or less every other week and complaining
about something or other having to do with the law, information, and
technology. There’s never a lack of
things to call out, what with Big Media and Corrupt Government colluding night
and day to keep you all shivering and cold in the darkness, trying to make you
pay more and more for things that ought to be free or at least cheap, and
getting all snoopy into your biz. It’s
been fun, and at the risk of looking like I’m continually tearing down without
building up, what I’ve tried to do is let you know that the status quo is
nonsensical and isn’t working; that the way things are aren’t the way they need
to be, and aren’t even the way things have always been; and that you’ve been
getting screwed, blued, and tattooed by a monolithic corporate regime backed up
by the government. And it’s all about
getting stuff to watch, look at, read and listen to.
very slowly, things might be getting better.
Congress dipped its toe into the waters of copyright reform last week
with a short hearing that featured a surprising number of sane (read:
non-corporate stooge) speakers, along with some fairly intelligent questions
coming from the representatives. Sure
there was a photographic guild guy who was a little bonkers (what is it with
photographers?) and some special effects company guy who equated mondo-budget
movies (like all of the movies that flopped this summer) with “good jobs,”
without any mention of copyright law at all.
But there was some enlightenment, too, like Tor Hanson, the owner of that
sweet indy label Yep Roc, who tried to explain all of the ways the internet
made his business better and asked that government step in and make music
royalties make sense. While it was
troubling that there were no actual creators
among the speakers (only business owners and lobbyists) the tone of the hearing
(which was cut short because the Congress-people had to go vote on something really
important, like perhaps repealing Obamacare for the 39th
civil, hopeful, and intelligent.
morning there’s news that Comcast is looking at some interesting new ways to
combat illegal downloading. Over the
years, we’ve had Big Media suing the bejesus out of individuals for downloading
stuff, a stupid strategy that’s now dying fast after porn producers started
using it, and courts really started looking at the law. That was replaced, sort of, by this absurd
“Six Strikes” thing, where your internet company is supposed to monitor what you’re
downloading and send you six graduated sets of warnings that you’re being bad,
with sanctions that include forcing you to take copyright re-education courses
and severely slowing down service if you are chronically disobedient. Really.
Comcast is talking about replacing the Six Strikes thing with a new program
where it will send an illegal downloader a pop-up message containing a link to
where the content can be acquired legally.
Obviously, there’s a lot wrong with this picture. First, as with the Six Strikes thing, this
means Comcast will be all up in its customers’ junk, as in actively monitoring
what you’re doing online. You cool with
that? No, you’re not. And then there’s the obnoxious pop-up
part. And then there’s the issue of what
happens when Comcast can’t offer you something.
Take, say, HBO’s Game of Thrones”
which is one of the most downloaded programs on the torrent sites right now. The reason it’s the most downloaded program is that the only way to get it
otherwise is to buy cable service and then get HBO, and an increasing number of
people don’t want either one. So the
downloading of these “premium” shows will continue, until the studios realize
that a la carte
offerings are what
people really want.
Comcast thing is probably DOA, but look at what it represents in terms of Big
Media’s attitude in dealing with what they like to call “piracy.” We’ve gone from massive federal lawsuits to
friendly nudges. And that’s significant.
there’s newspapers. In just the last
week, two of the world’s most iconic papers have been purchased on the cheap by
profoundly successful non-newspaper guys:
Boston Red Sox owner (and commodities trader) John Henry bought the
Boston Globe and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos grabbed the Washington Post. What does this mean? Everybody seems to have an opinion but nobody
really knows. But newspapers, large and
small, are an anachronism; they are shrinking in size, influence, relevance,
and quality, and nobody seems to be able to figure out how to make a newspaper
work in the digital / internet age. But
if anybody can make that happen, it’s these guys.
I may not have anything to bitch about over here. Sheesh.
Paul Rapp is an IP
attorney and radical notary who will be presenting “Legal Issues For Artists
and Writers” on Monday, August 12 at Bascom Lodge, atop Mount Greylock, Adams
MA. 6 PM. Free!