Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sony vs The Internet. Who Will Win?

Techie Web site Ars Technica is having a good bit of fun with some of what’ managed to come from the mouth, and pen (so to speak) of Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton.  According to the story recently published by Ars, SonyPics’ CEO started the ball rolling with statements at a conference that Mr Lynton could not, “see anything good having come from the Internet."

Apparently, that made for uncomfortable weather for the CEO, because Mr Lynton appears to have “clarified” his statements in a submission to the blog site Huffington Post.

Ars Technica provides a pretty good rundown of the whole affair up to now, so I shan’t copy’n paste what Ars has already done.  Instead, I want to concentrate on what Mr Lynton claims is his real point: copyright.  From his submission at HuffPo:

In March, an unfinished copy of 20th Century Fox's film X-Men Origins: Wolverine was stolen from a film lab and uploaded to the Internet, more than a month before its theatrical release. The studio investigated the crime, and efforts were made to limit its availability online. Still, it was illegally downloaded more than four million times.

That kind of wide scale theft was very much on my mind when I was on a panel the other day which opened with a question about the impact of the Internet on the entertainment business, and I responded, "I'm a guy who sees nothing good having come from the Internet. Period."

He goes on at some length about copyright and how the Internet has damaged the creative industries.  Not just his own movie business, but books, newspapers, magazines, music.  And that is where Mr Lynton misses the point.

There is a very real conundrum throughout the Internet when it comes to copyright.  I support an artist’s right to profit from his own creative work, and even Sony Pictures’ right to profit from distributing it.  But from Day One of what I’ll loosely call “The Broadband Age” of the Internet, the selfsame creative sources that Mr Lynton tries to champion have been completely and utterly out of touch with the new opportunities and challenges of this medium.  It is a medium that doesn’t abide capricious and arbitrary release dates, or permit a few large houses to control what content reaches the customer.  And old-world (read: Pre-Internet) minds are not going to be able to successfully fight off the loss of control.  They don’t understand the thirst for content out in the Internet.  These people could probably spend 10% of what they spend now, publish webisodes, and be champions of that hungry public.  Instead, they meet in secret in Scandinavia, Paris, allowing no consumer-oriented repesentatives within, and even convincing President Obama in the USA to declare the content of those meetings to be a matter of national security, and therefore protected from Freedom of Information Act inquiries.  Copyright is a national secret?  Wow.  That alone should show you the disdain that the so-called “creative” industries have for the very consumers they claim to be serving.

Remember, too, that Sony was the company to bring “rootkits” into the mainstream.  Look at how well *that* turned out.

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