Kazaa Media Desktop is a slick, commercial-grade file sharing app, shielded – so far – from prosecution by the application’s distributed architecture and the company’s multi-layered off-shore status. A US court has just stripped away both by compelling an ISP to grant access to a user’s personal data. By going for the users, the RIAA realises, they stand a better chance of paralysing the business. Who will download it once they know they’ve just bought themselves ‘felon’ status?
Charles Mann in Wired Magazine, restates the euphoricists’ case for the imminent dissolution of the recording industry. The recording industry is nearly 100 years old and has weathered dozens of existential threats – from the great depression to radio to cassette tapes. It is still with us. It will still be with us in 100 years time. I blogged the irritating robustness of the status quo here in July 2002.
Hilary Rosen, the downloaders’ Great Satan, will step down from her job running the US Recording Industry’s trade body, the RIAA, ‘by year end’. Considering it’s only January, she’s certainly providing plenty of warning – she’s been at the RIAA for nearly fifteen years so I guess she’s accustomed to thinking long term. I blogged Rosen here on 27 August and here on 28 August 2002.
Let me get this straight right up front: I think the public domain is critically important to human advancement, I think the net is its most important representative on this plane and I think copyright is out of control. I also think that Creative Commons is a fascinating and practical new approach to networked copyright (Danny explained it here and mirrored a useful flash presentation).
But… then let me go on to say that I dislike orthodoxy of every kind and that, in the clamour to roll back or abolish copyright law and in the profusion of alternatives, I see an emerging orthodoxy – the public domain is in crisis, creativity and innovation in peril, copyright owners returning us to the dark ages. The story neatly collapses together lots of hot geek issues – like open source, unbundling Microsoft and Web Services – and it pulls together lots of clever and useful minds – like Kahle, Lessig, Barlow and about half a million bloggers – but it’s not an open-and-shut case.
Where, for instance, is the actual damage caused by extended copyright protection for books? Who is actually suffering under the silly provisions of the DMCA and won’t the whole thing be thrown out bit by bit by various courts? Are the record labels hurting anyone with their suicidal mis-application of resources in file sharing?
I blogged the public domain in more detail in June here.
(This is a longer version of an article written for The Guardian) The music and tech industries have been locked in mortal conflict for decades with no resolution in sight. This time around, will the all-powerful rights owners snuff out innovation and consumer choice or will the maverick geeks and their friends in the tech industry impoverish the artists and record labels? Neither.