Monday, July 29, 2002

"It is worth the effort to do all we can to stem the tide."

Declain McCullagh writes Pirate this, go to jail, and notes that, "Sen. Joseph Biden has become one of the newest field marshals in Congress' intellectual property wars." This is the same topic Glenn Reynolds was on a tear about.

Biden's report about the issue is now available. I'm still perusing the executive summary, but already it uses familiar and inflammatory rhetoric.

At the bottom of page iii is the grand old stand-by: "Billions of dollars are being stolen, hundreds of thousands of jobs lost." I remember that been trotted out during the grand debate over software piracy, and thus was used to justify the "need" for copy protection features. Yet, Microsoft grew by leaps and bounds, as did most of the complainers. Indeed, those that perished did so under the mighty sword of MS, or another competitor. Arguments that pirated software equalled lost sales were irrelevant; competition killed 'em.

The same here. The companies raising the largest stink also, coincidentally, want to control all content all the time. Most especially, they want to control their existing means of control and distribution. Joe Independant sees computers, the Internet, and technology in general as a way of self-publishing on a wide scale. The major media moguls (M-cubed?) see that as a threat to their very existence.

In the executive summary, Biden trots out the usual claim that a feature length movie may now be downloaded via the Internet in under fifteen minutes. At a hearing he said that every episode of "Seinfield" is available for downloading via the Internet.

So what?

As I recall, "Harry Potter" shattered sales records for DVD's and video tapes, yet was "freely" available via the Internet well before copies went on sale. Worse, many copies of the DVD weren't even copy-protected; you could spin off all the tape copies you wanted! Yet, again, sales didn't seem to suffer.

Control, it's all about -- and will always be about -- control.

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