Friday, July 19, 2002

Quietly making decisions

Tech activists protest anti-copying

Enthusiasts of free software disrupted a Commerce Department meeting Wednesday, insisting on their right to debate the entertainment industry over anti-copying technologies.
It seems the only way some activists get heard is by being obnoxious. There was the recent spat at the AIDS conference in Spain. The difference there, of course, was that they targeted a single representative--from the US--rather than the conference as a whole. In this instance, this was a group that was protesting their exclusion from the discussion.

I especially got a laugh out of Brett Wynkoop sneaking onto the panel and joining the discussion. I can imagine the faces when someone realized, "Just who the heck are you?"

Jack Valenti, movie picture flack, was gratious enough to allow the protestors to participate, at least to an extent. But his past history catches up with him, showing a consistent cry for government control and unwillingness to consider new modes of doing business. Valenti, in the early 80's, was out-spoken about the VCR, saying that "the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone."

Very open minded of him.

The "modest royalty fee" proposed at the time was between $25 and $50 per blank tape. Needless to say, the VCR industry would have been stillborn. Today, it's a revenue source worth billions to the entertainment industry. If they had had their way in 1982, who knows.

And so it is today with computers, the Internet, and broadband access. Only they don't see it that way because the only way they know of doing business is the way they've done it for years. Ownership, copyright, control.

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