Oh, Boy Do We Got Mail

Lots of mail in the in-box this week. And a few snarky comments around the web, too.
So, here’s the deal on Grokster: Wishing there were no record companies or movie studios with lots of money to sue people doesn’t mean 1)they’re corrupt jerks who are out to ruin your personal music or movie enjoyment pleasure or 2)things are going to stay this way.
That doesn’t, of course, mean you have to like the current circumstances. But the point of the Grokster post was to say, essentially, that if Silicon Valley wants change, it’s going to have to work for it.
A lot of what was said about that piece on the web and in email was captured by Liza Sabater over at CultureKitchen.
“So, will this make car, liquor and beer makers liable for drunk driving?” Liza asks. No. It won’t. This is what I call a good dumb question. To some extent, we already know the answer. Bartenders – the people who serve liquor – have been held liable in drunk driving incidents. So have party hosts. And gun shop owners have legal obligations and responsibilities. The Supreme Court was pretty clear on this point: It’s not the technology, per se. It’s what you encourage people to do with it.
Mr. Simon writes in a bit more cryptically:

Uh. I think you got two things wrong:
1. The end of file sharing programs
2. America loves Hollywood
The RIAA and MPAA better get with the program.
More theft = more sales.
Think about how the MPAA railed against Sony video recorders. Claiming it would ruin business. Well thefts were up and business boomed.
What we have here is 30+ years of content industry stupidity repeated at every new technological intersection. In fact it didn’t start 30 years ago. It started with Edison’s invention of the gramaphone which was supposed to ruin the music industry. Or playing tunes for free on the radio was going to ruin the gramaphone industry. Or the cassette recorder which was going to ruin the music industry or boom boxes which could dupe tapes which was going to ruin the music industry, etc. etc. etc. Why all that bad stuff never happened? Why is it that every advance that made music easier to steal increased the size of the market?
There is some rampant stupidity going on here. However, it is not the tech geeks who are in charge of the stupid brigade.
BTW if suing becomes significant then file sharing will go further underground. Just like the drug war.
Hollywood is like the oil companies. The product is popular; the companies selling it are not.

Can you tell he’s an engineer?
Well, I’m not so sure the Geeks are so smart about this stuff. I mean, who won? But I do think filesharing will be forced underground to some extent if lawsuits accelerate. Hollywood and the studios are playing a delay game – politically and in the marketplace – until someone comes to their rescue. The smarter play might be to figure out how to do that.

Dennis Gornall writes in from Canada and says as much, eh:

Flaunting the recording and movie industries is childish. It leads to a world of hurt for the tech folks and the industry that fills their heads.
However, there is a 10 year-long stack of 100s of millions of people who have had their music for free. They aren’t going to grow up quickly.
They aren’t rushing out to buy $15 to $20 CDs and DVDs. They have learned that instant gratification from the web and the investment of all their capital in hardware and software brings a very good feeling. And they love to select their own songs without having to accept the mediocrity of somebody else’s selections on album-format media.
That happened because the two industries fought the new home distribution and recording technologies instead of investing in them and taking a controlling position. They are only now starting to participate instead of fighting. It will take another decade to regain lost ground even if they now make all the right choices.
The industries can console themselves that this week’s US Supreme Court ruling has helped to confine the file-sharing companies to eastern Europe, the middle east and south Asia.
Unfortunately, enforcement can be difficult in those places.
And the file sharers now have the advice of the US Supreme Court: don’t advertise your technology as a copyright-breaker.

There’s also been mail about the post on lawyers who blog and blogs run by lawyers.
Guess who wrote in? The lawyers.
Our old friend Steve Schwenk made the point I was trying to make about lawyers and reporters pretty well:

You get an “A” for creative thinking (I think), but the lawyer bloggers, while there are many, do not set the agenda or the tone or anything as a group. They are over-represented for the same sort of reason liberals are over-represented in academia. Lawyers like politics as a rule, much more so than members of any other occupation, except perhaps journalists. And they like arguing politics. And they are trained advocates. Many are smart. Many are good writers. But they don’t as a group set any agenda in the blog world, nor are they responsible for the tone, agenda or direction of blogs any more than the non-lawyer bloggers.
More to the point, blogs have opened up what was a cozy private club (only journalists allowed) to a much broader class of participants. It is not surprising that a lot of attorneys have jumped into this new medium and risen to the top for the reasons noted above. My question is, why are there so few journalist bloggers?

Well, I didn’t say they set the agenda – and Schwenk sent in a long list of non-lawyer bloggers. And I think many of the lawyers – like Schwenk – have chimed in for the very reasons he gives. As for why there so few journalist bloggers? They have day jobs. Not for long, though. Not for long.
But my college pal Mark Silverschotz, a lawyer married to a lawyer, gets the closing statement on this one:

I think that lawyers have been bred to believe that people who are trying to influence behavior have a responsibility to tell the truth or say “I don’t know”. The fact that generally false swearing is a misdemeanor and perjury is a felony does suggest that there are different degrees to the legal consequences of a falsity, but if one is measuring the severity of an offense by the legislature’s collective perception of the negative impact of a lie, then why shouldn’t we (the public) use the same “metric” (as they say in corporate speak) when evaluating public assertions of fact (by politicians or interviewees) designed to influence political behavior?

I guess saying “because I say so” – which is Schwenk’s point – isn’t good enough, huh?