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A Genuine Destruction of Culture

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The French are on their way with a new law to fight file sharing. Said Nicolas Sarkozy of the law, 'we run the risk of witnessing a genuine destruction of culture'. Truer words were never spoken.

Actually Sarkozy was talking about what would happen if the law weren't used. Which of course makes it thick with irony. And he said a lot of other things too - a sort of Gallic version of Orwellian doublespeak - that needn't be quoted here. They're just more of the same thing.

In a nutshell the law works like this.

Your Internet connection is closely monitored and if you're found engaging in too much file sharing you'll get a warning or two from your ISP and then if you continue you're just shut down.

And the policy could be effective as it ties the 'file sharing crime' to specific people - it's no longer possible to hide behind IPs. And you wouldn't be able to get a new account with another ISP either.

But it's obvious this law sucks and it's obvious it's not the file sharing which is wrong.

What's wrong is that the inheritors of the media companies who once upon a time figured out a way to generate revenues from their technology have been superseded by new technologies - and they've failed to show any of the entrepreneurship that started their industries off.

The movie industry wouldn't be anything if people once upon a time hadn't figured out how to sell the movies they made - by putting them in cinemas and charging admission. That worked at the time and it still works.

And the music companies published and sold sheet music and they too cleaned up.

Then along came television and the movie people saw the end of civilisation as they knew it. And the phonograph came along and the music publishers saw the end of civilisation as they knew it.

The music cassette recorder came along and again heralded the end to civilisation as these people knew it. And then the VHS cassette came along and civilisation ended again. And so forth.

Whiners. That's all they are. They totally lack the resourcefulness of the people who founded the companies they police over today. And they're in trouble not because their markets have dried up - markets dry up all the time anyway - but because they themselves are less than worthless in promoting their own industries.

They spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually - ostensibly plucked from coffers that are bursting at the seams - in one of the most curious forms of government ever: lobbying.

They literally spend a kings ransom on legislators to keep things the way they want rather than try to do things the way their customers want.

They're prepared to engage in direct hostilities with the very customers they should hold dear. And rather than improving these customer relations they're totally destroying them. As if their customers are junkies that have to feed their habit anyway and don't need to be shown any deference or respect.

Technology has passed these dinosaurs by. And the huge number of artists - both in the cinema and in music - that depend on them for their livelihood are being let down in a grand fashion.

It's been quite a while since credits opened the movies and not closed them. It's been quite a while since you saw a single screen of the major 'dramatis personae' and that was it. Today the great roll at the end of a flick is mostly a signal to the audience they can get up and leave. And the credits roll on forever.

And even though cinema audiences ignore the credits others don't: all the subcontractors and staff of the subcontractors of subcontractors who see their names in lights take it not only as a recognition of their achievements but also as a promise than when the movie finally makes it to DVD they'll start to make money too.

And if they hadn't skimped on their people by embracing DVD technology the movie companies wouldn't be in this mess today. They used the DVD to make MORE money - more money than ever before. And they could use its promises to hold off contractors working in the cinema production. They cut into both ends.

The movie moguls have always found ways to stay rich - such as by skimping on payments at production time and paying small royalties on DVD rentals and sales - and the music companies have done the same.

Once was a time when recorded music didn't bring in much money at all. Artists made their living by touring and playing to live audiences. Some artists could make a lot of money. Frank Sinatra reputedly got $20 K for a concert way back when $20 K was a small fortune.

Then by the time music - rock - broke into mainstream things had turned around again. And music acts toured not to clean up - they lost money touring - but to promote their records.

And later the music companies again figured out how to make money off the tours and they used the records to promote the tours - a complete reversal.

Things are always changing and nothing is sacred either. The stories of good acts that have been totally ripped off by their companies is endless. The Rolling Stones were paid measly union wages to record their first hits: walk into any of Bill Wyman's Sticky Fingers restaurants and read the walls. Who knows if they had any other contractual guarantees back then?

Toni Braxton's bankruptcy; The Hives and their 'B Is For Brutus' manager: the bastards always find a way. And normally they don't mind screwing people over and normally they don't count the enemies they leave in their wake.

But trying to take on the whole Internet is not going to work. Now they're alienating their billions of customers worldwide. Now the story can't be kept locked up. Now it's not only Hedda and Louella can tell it.

Now it's on Digg in an hour and by the same time the day after everyone knows about it.

When Håkan Roswall sent fifty seven Swedish police officers to bust poor The Pirate Bay the whole world saw the bust on YouTube in a matter of hours.

And when all the dirty details of the TPB bust started surfacing they spread like wildfire in the online community. And when Sony BMG tried a DRM rootkit on Windows PCs Mark R rooted it out, the story spread, and the corporate Sony BMG name turned to mud in weeks.

They're alienating everyone. And they can't get you to love them with an attitude like that.

As Rickard Falkvinge told them, 'you'll always think of something - you always have'. But right now they're not thinking at all.

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