The Internet Today

Today, Wikipedia, Reddit, and a variety of other websites that I use on a daily basis to stay informed and learn are offline. These sites are protesting the SOPA/Protect IP bills currently going through Congress. Jason Harvey explains why:

SOPA and PROTECT IP contain no provisions to actually remove copyrighted content, but rather focus on the censorship of links to entire domains.

If the Attorney General served [a website] with an order to remove links to a domain, we would be required to scrub every post and comment on the site containing the domain and censor the links out, even if the specific link contained no infringing content. We would also need to implement a system to automatically censor the domain from any future posts or comments. This places a measurable burden upon the site’s technical infrastructure. It also damages one of the most important tenets of reddit, and the internet as a whole – free and open discussion about whatever the fuck you want.

More or less, what is happening here is big media — a sector in decline due to new technologies, and the obsolescence of old business models — is trying to bite back through getting government to rig the market to protect their old failing business models.

Newspaper advertising is falling off a cliff:

Home movie revenue has hit a wall:

And, music sales have dramatically fallen:

More importantly, the rising trend of file sharing has given media companies the sense that they are “losing revenue”:


The trouble is file sharing isn’t “lost revenue”. There is no guarantee whatever that a file downloaded is somehow a substitute for a sale. It’s a fundamentally different kind of transaction. For a start, it’s free. Consumers will take things for free that they would never buy, because it costs them less to do so. More importantly, it’s not stealing; it’s copying, and there is a difference. It’s not taking a physical product that someone has manufactured. There’s no direct lost revenue. And ultimately, if enough people copy it, it builds exposure for a product.

There are still many ways for big media to monetise their products in this new world: the music industry can stop concentrating on record sales, and started concentrating on concert tickets. Newspapers can move their businesses online, or use Apple’s tablet distribution model. Movie distributors can focus on high-definition content like Blu Ray, which is hard to redistribute online. That’s just off the top of my head.

But of course, this is creative destruction. Times change, societies change, fortunes will be made and fortunes will be lost.

So it’s in the interests of the big media elite to harness the power of government to create draconian laws to snub out the copy and paste new media culture that has developed, because that opens up a whole new revenue stream: litigation. If you can’t earn your millions, you might as well litigate your way to them.

The problem with that is that it’s another zombie idea. Our copy and paste culture, our freewheeling culture is a huge source of innovation. Shutting down new media, and stifling creativity will just create more social stagnation, and anger and disillusionment in the young. We live in the era of the parody, the era of the remix, the era of the pastiche. This legislation poses a serious threat to that era. Are we destined to venture into a new era of beige conformity, and Chinese-style internet censorship? I hope not.

Big media should be spending their money on creating compelling products and content delivery systems that make people want to buy, rather than trying to legislate and litigate their way to success. For all of the draconian measures that might be put in place to prevent copyright “theft” and shut down alternative media, if big media’s product sucks, people will not buy it.

26 thoughts on “The Internet Today

  1. Check this video out – http://youtu.be/HUEvRyemKSg . There may be another step after copyright, witch higher stakes. After all entertainment is not THAT big and there is no issue of security here. With semi-universal fabrication at home, people will be able to circumvent much more than legal protection for games and movies. If you can make a gun, or maybe all the tools needed for production of some synthetic drug govt would have to loose a lot of control that it now enjoys.

  2. “They made unrealistic demands on reality, and reality would not oblige.”

    Reminds me of many economists…

    Doctorow is addressing some much bigger and broader issues than me. Computing and things like 3-d printing put much bigger powers into the hands of ordinary people than at any time in history. It should only be expected that the leviathan state will counterattack. That is a dangerous situation for everybody.

  3. The Internet is the next Black Swan.

    All of the information can be lost in the flick of a switch.

    We rant and rave about issues, but where is the physical meeting?

    If it was turned off, good bye to http://www.azizonomics.com.

    Like I said before, we should be meeting in coffee houses in Basle, annually as a Neo Iluminatio 2.0. To counteract the NWO and Globalists. The media is already there. If we pose a credible non violent alternative, perhaps our ideas will reach a broader appeal.

    • Ideas are bulletproof, Buddy. You can’t turn off ideas. I’m using the internet to spread ideas while I still have the chance. I suggest everyone else does the same.

      As I said earlier this is the time when ordinary people have the greatest power in history. We should only expect the leviathan state and the political establishment to curtail these new and wide freedoms, and to preserve old political orders and authority structures.

  4. And my take on piracy is it improves art.

    If an artist is good his their music/film/writings will spread virally. People will attend live shows, buy a physically hard cover, see it in a movie for full effects (Could you imagine Avatar being copied, then you say I wish I saw that on an Imax screen)

    This improves art.

    Britany Spears will never make money and we’ll be better for it.

  5. Heh.

    So it’s in the interests of the big media elite to harness the power of government to create draconian laws to snub out the copy and paste new media culture that has developed, because that opens up a whole new revenue stream: litigation. If you can’t earn your millions, you might as well litigate your way to them.

    Of course, the numbers just don’t work. Pirates melt away and are largely judgment proof. Which is why, I suppose, these bills allow for wide-spread asset seizure on demand and the arbritrary blocking of sites outside the US — with no due process whatsoever. Rather like drones with their collateral damage or the sudden domestic suspension of habeas corpus for our own good.

    As a copyright holder, I can understand the inclination for further protections — but as Our Blog Host stated, “More or less, what is happening here is big media….” Indeed. Who else can afford to buy legislation?

    The truth is, the Internet is finally becoming a truly “disruptive technology” — which is generally a good thing for human evolution. So was the personal computer. So will be cold fusion. But the proposed legislation of SOPA and Protect IP — much to the great amusement of the techno-savvy — is written by complete nincompoops who have no idea how the Internet works. Nor do they understand the new marketing paradigms that it is ushering in — such as “sharing”. They envision a network of lawless pneumatic tubes under the sidewalks of the world, where we all send notes, pictures, and other stuff to each other. They imagine it’s a place one “goes” to “hang out” rather than temporary files, downloaded to memory to view, then trashed. The legislators are merely doing, in a moronic fashion, what their monied donors from big media demand. SSDD.

    The laws we have work fine. I’ve used them. They stop at the border. Oh well. There are creative ways to use this disruptive technology as a marketing tool, as a spur to media innovations, and as a global social construct fraught with greater meaning for our collective future.

  6. My I crash the whole “intellectual property” issue. And so that I don’t seem inconsistent, my contention is that patents and copyrights and trademarks deserve the same condemnation. Human beings are masters at taking blatant illusion and transforming it into wealth at the expense of the ignorant.

    If you ever encounter a modifying adjective in front of the word “property”, you have encountered a con-man or con-woman’s perversion. Each of us needs to extract our minds from the fog and realize that PROPERTY has a very clear and non-complicated meaning. When possession of property is transferred from, relinquished by, or extorted from its previous owner, THAT prior owner no longer possesses the property.

    Thoughts, notions, musings, innovations, and all these other hybrid forms of replicable media are NOT property. I am cool with the sale and purchase of these abstracts They may represent significant value to the purchaser and constitute a wise purchase, much as buying a service might make sense, but they ARE NOT PROPERTY.

    If I possess property that I did not fairly and honestly procure from the prior owner/possessor, and the prior owner has no access to his possession, he HAS BEEN DAMAGED and is entitled to no less than the restoration of his property. If I appropriate specific alpha-character strings or melodies or photographs or electronic media for my own purposes/enjoyment, that the “originator” [how silly] has certified or registered or had blessed by the Pope, the foul is negligible and, perhaps, non-existent.

    …AND THE DOPEY “ORIGINATOR” STILL POSSESSES HIS ABSURD PSEUDO-PROPERTY.

    • So you disavow all copyright, patents, trademarks and trade secrets? Really? Without IP laws we would not have had the exponential growth in innovation and technology we have had in the last couple of centuries. Without IP laws it would then be perfectly legal to hack into google, steal its source code and create an identical search engine, and even call it Google because you would not be depriving its original owners of continuing to use the source code and brand name.

      In pure economic terms, such protection provides a monopoly, often time-limited, of such unique creations, which provides a significant financial incentive for its creation and eventual societal benefit as a positive externality. The absence of property rights in general creates negative externalities such as the tragedy of the commons.

      Of course, record companies are not the creators and do not deserve their monopolies-by-distribution which serve as proxies for copyright, transferring wealth from its rightful owners to record company vampires. This legislation provides benefits to them beyond their wildest dreams, and is a potential Trojan horse for complete political and economic control over the masses. What was once looked at with contempt is now being seen by western governments as a blueprint for control – Chinese Internet “laws”.

      Back on topic though, why would anyone spend time and effort creating that which they could not be compensated? A world with no new music, books, movies or software, inventions or innovation. Is that what you want? All for your god-given right to have anything you want without paying for it?

      • I see contrarian’s point; intellectual “property” is philosophically phoney.

        But it seems like we don’t have much alternative — counterfeiting does disincentivise innovation. It’s better that competitors set up under a discrete identity, like Pepsi (to Coke), or Burger King (to McDonalds).

        On the other hand, copying is not stealing. I can understand stealing as taking a piece of bread, or a car, and I can even understand it as stealing a patent, but with copying, just what has been stolen? The owner of the intellectual property doesn’t seem to have lost anything at all, other than a potential customer. It is already the case that I choose to buy Blu Rays instead of downloading movies from torrent websites. That’s because Blu Rays offer a better quality product — better audio, better picture quality — without hogging my bandwidth for the 24 hours or so it would take my connection to download a 48Gb Blu Ray disc. It seems to me like IP holders just need to offer better content delivery (Blu Ray, Steam, etc) and more often than not any potential customers will quickly part with their money.

  7. I would argue that it’s stealing even though it doesn’t look like the traditional stealing (things change in this regard as well). I’m speaking as someone who is/can be affected by this as I’m working in the software industry.

    This is not to say I’m supporting SOPA. Not at all. What those industries should be doing should be to adapt to this new world and provide easy and seamless legal ways for procuring the digital content. Some examples: Spotify, or see this: http://techcrunch.com/2010/07/05/how-steam-stopped-me-from-pirating-games-and-enjoy-the-sweet-drm-kool-aid/

    After providing these means, the remainder of blatant stealing can be handled in ways that do not involve the promotion of such odious pieces of legislation.

      • The reason why I contend it’s not stealing is because I cannot locate anything that has been stolen. For something to have been stolen, its holder must have experienced a loss. With copying music or software, the IP holder has experienced the loss of a potential customer. The loss of a “potential” is not really a loss. In fact, a lot of the time the downloader may ultimately go on to buy a legitimate product, especially considering the fact that torrents and cracks can be of poor quality.

        I think that there is still a roadmap to monetising IP. You mention Steam and Spotify, I have mentioned a few others. Copyright holders have to accept that pirates will always find a way through, and to compete they must create content-delivery systems that beat the pirates on convenience and quality.

        • Yes, but just because it’s more hazy from a philosophical standpoint doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not stealing. I read a lot about this subject on a shareware authors’ discussion list a few years ago, and there is a distinct category of people that would find a product useful and “steal” it if they could find it for free (and weighed the consequences – i.e. inconvenience looking for the “illegal” copy, potential for getting viruses etc.), but would otherwise buy it if they couldn’t find it. One guy even wrote to an author to ask him “where’s the crack?” :P Some (scientific grade) studies on this subject could make it less hazy.

          Another example: PlayStation 3 where it’s practically impossible for 99.999% of people to use “illegal” content.

        • I think a lot of software that is priced out of people’s budgets falls into that category. I can think of a lot of high-end music software, things like Adobe CS, etc. I have noticed that iPad software is priced much more cheaply, and subsequently there seems to be much less piracy. The best alternative to widespread piracy is surely sometimes large price drops. I notice Apple have done this recently with Logic Pro. It’s now less than $200, and it used to be almost $1000. It is just a hunch, but I bet there is a lot less piracy now, and it is still probably very profitable.

    • “Human beings are masters at taking blatant illusion and transforming it into wealth at the expense of the ignorant.”

      IP is only one forum for the illusion masters. Don’t get me started on financial derivatives or currency printing. The blindness that cripples this generation is horribly debilitating.

      I am a naive child, observing the royal-highness, and innocently describing the ABSENCE OF APPAREL.

      Step away from this current seductive culture, take control of your power to reason [not imitate and mimic], and come to your senses. Truly rational notions will SPILL from your consciousness.

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