26 May 2009

The Internet's Infinite Exploitation

Talk about opening your mouth and putting your foot in it....

Here's Michael Lynton, Chairman and CEO, Sony Pictures Entertainment - yes, the one who famously said:

"I'm a guy who sees nothing good having come from the Internet. Period."

Realising that this was not the most astute statement, he's back, desperately trying to spin. Here's a sample:

But, I actually welcome the Sturm und Drang I've stirred, because it gives me an opportunity to make a larger point (one which I also made during that panel discussion, though it was not nearly as viral as the sentence above). And my point is this: the major content businesses of the world and the most talented creators of that content -- music, newspapers, movies and books -- have all been seriously harmed by the Internet.

Well, no: music, news, films and books and the people who create them are all thriving; what *isn't* thriving is the old way of providing access to them - things like Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Anyway, let's pass over that and hear what the man who insists "I am not an analogue guy living in a digital world" has to say:

Contrast the expansion of the Internet with what happened a half century ago. In the 1950's, the Eisenhower Administration undertook one of the most massive infrastructure projects in our nation's history -- the creation of the Interstate Highway System. It completely transformed how we did business, traveled, and conducted our daily lives. But unlike the Internet, the highways were built and operated with a set of rational guidelines. Guard rails went along dangerous sections of the road. Speed and weight limits saved lives and maintenance costs. And officers of the law made sure that these rules were obeyed. As a result, as interstates flourished, so did the economy.

Well, I have to confess that sounds pretty analogue to me. The Internet doesn't need "guardrails", because there are no safety issues. In particular, there are no lives or maintenance costs to save. It's a completely bogus analogy, trying to draw on a romantic image fromthe past livened up with a little fear-mongering about those lives that need saving.

But the real give-away is the following:

without standards of commerce and more action against piracy, the intellectual property of humankind will be subject to infinite exploitation on the Internet.

What a wonderful phrase: "infinite exploitation on the Internet" - a perfect description of *precisely* what humanity needs. The inability to provide that "infinite exploitation" is precisely why the current system ought to be superseded. And finally, the fact that this glorious possibility is meant to be a *criticism* of the Internet shows that poor Mr. Lynton is indeed an analogue guy in a digital world - worse, one whose mind keeps bumping up against his own, internal guardrails.

Update: Don't miss Mike Masnick's even more thorough debunking.

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