Sony, Kottke & Us

There’s nothing the blogosphere loves more than to have its sense of entitlement to free information impugned. After all, it gives us something to blog about. With the debate over whether or not it was acceptable for bloggers to get paid to blog already a distant memory, the blogosphere was spoiling for a fight – and it found it when Jason Kottke posted a clip from Ken Jennings’ Jeopardy swan song and got a cease-and-desist from Sony for his effort. Cue the panties and…bunch!

Come on guys, this was predictable, wasn’t it? I doubt Jeopardy sports a Creative Commons license, so we can hardly be surprised if Sony gets annoyed when someone rips off their content. Fair use? It’s not only dead, it’s been buried long enough that it’s hard to make out the epitaph on the tombstone: Get Used to It.

The content industries are now in the process of encasing Fair Use’s grave in cement in case it gets any ideas of pulling some kind of undead zombie voodoo comeback. The only way forward is to talk about real ways to make this a non-issue in the future. And no Dan, I don’t think holding a boycott is the answer – boycotting has only really worked once. It was against Charles Boycott. In Ireland. In 1880. Haven’t we got better things to do with our lives than to spend them deluding ourselves into believing we’re inflicting fatal injuries by tracking a comically long list of enemies who don’t even acknowledge our existence?

Now, I hate Sony as much as the next guy. Sure, they’re evil, but they’ll die. And rather than stomping around angrily, let’s take a more direct approach to solving this problem. We’ve shown that a little technology is enough to run circles around both government and industry – why don’t we look at the ways we can use our know-how to protect ourselves from these kinds of attacks:

  1. Legal Technology: We’re under assault by corporations, why not use their own weapon against them and incorporate? This is a question that perhaps Wendy or Larry could shed some light on: could a blogger create a shell corporation in such a way that it would that limit the blogger’s liability? That way, someone like Sony could make threats all they wanted – suing the shell corporation would result in little benefit for Sony. If this was a viable option, perhaps hosted blogging tool services could provide it as a value-added service (“To incorporate this blog, click here!”).
  2. Content Distribution Technology: Following in the footsteps of Freenet and Bittorrent, why not develop a truly distributed blogging technology? My buddy Brad Neuberg did some interesting investigation in this area with his Paper Airplane project. Not only would this make it extremely difficult for a company to block content, it would also help the more popular blogs stop being victims of their own success.
  3. Content Discovery Technology: Honestly, have our lives grown so bereft of entertainment that we’ve resorted to caring about such vacuous, artificial crap? There’s boatloads of good public domain, independent content being created out there by people who aren’t even professionals, who do it because they care about creating cool stuff, enough to last a thousand lifetimes. All we need is a way to find the stuff we care about. Developers, help us grab Big Media by the Long Tail, twirl it around, and smack its head against the floor until it breaks open like a piñata!