by PaleFire on 27/10/10 at 12:32 am
Gene Simmons: Be litigious. Sue everybody. Take their homes, their cars
Kiss bassist Gene Simmons announced he is fighting back against the “popcorn farts” – that would be Anonymous – for having launched Operation Payback. Anonymous, with its latest operation, has declared war against the media giants. But the content czars are not going to surrender. In a panel on building successful brands at MIP2010 Gene "the tongue" Simmons endorsed an aggressive stance against copyright infringement: “Make sure your brand is protected…Make sure there are no incursions. Be litigious. Sue everybody. Take their homes, their cars. Don’t let anybody cross that line.” Surprisingly (shocker, I know), Gene Simmons’ Web sites (GeneSimmons.com and SimmonsRecords.com), toppled under a DDoS attack the very next day.
You gotta admit: It’s a heck of an enterprise to take on the media – but Anonymous did.
Last month saw Web sites falling one after another as the hactivist aesthetic was played out. The justification was simple: entertainment companies are cracking the lawsuit whip *not* to protect their intellectual property (which actually belongs to the artist), but rather, to exploit people with forced out-of-court settlements. It appears that the media concerns don’t intend to share the money from this exploitation with the artists either – entertainment industries are not interested in stopping piracy, but exploiting it. Curiously, the porn industry is leading the anti-piracy efforts and quickly got on the waitlist of designated targets.
A recap of the issues can be found here and here. Meanwhile, some people praised Anonymous for their hacktivist efforts, while others condemned it, claiming that "stealing" other people’s property is unacceptable. But is making a copy theft – or something else – and has the legal system caught up with the implications of teh interwebs – and Anonymous?
At this point, knee deep in the Internet, bytes coming out of our ears, and armed with gadgets, we need to acknowledge the impossibility of protecting property online and understand that while content can be (and will be) stolen, creativity cannot. But that’s not the concern of the entertainment companies, it is the bottom dollar that counts.
The obsession with copyright is the residue of the semi-expiring print era that has been dominating society for the past several centuries. Let’s remember that the concept of “copyright” and “author” emerged with the invention of the movable type which later became the printing press. It would be a safe bet that the novel was the genre that legitimized the “author.” Maurice Couturier (1991) explains that in the 18th century, readers were too close to the oral era where the storyteller was often both the author and the narrator of the story. So why would the novelist to sign his work when it was supposed to be written by a character?
As print culture matured with the sense of ownership that copyright legitimizes, the practice of anonymous publication eventually faded away and the “author” was born. When the good folks in the 15th-16th century were writing manuscripts, intellectual property was the last thing on their minds. But I digress… The moral of the story is that, change is happening, whether we like it or not. And the “popcorn farts” have raised the flag… The question now is, how will the entertainment industries respond without alienating their audience? To put things in perspective, let me mention that authors have been meddling with these issues in their own way by experimenting with giving away content, much to the dismay of their publishers.
William Mitchell, published his book City of Bits with MIT Press in 1995, and since the subject-matter of the book primarily dealt with the digital revolution, he decided to provide a free online access to the full text. He was confronted with skepticism by MIT Press who told him that this decision would weaken the sales of the printed book. City of Bits’ Web site had a link to the online order form that provided the reader with the option of choosing either version.
Surprisingly, although the Web site offered a free version of the full text, the online version stimulated the bookstore and the mail-order sales rather than weakening them. Mitchell explains this curious outcome by suggesting that the hardback and online versions added value to the text in different and complementary fashions, so the readers of the Web version were not necessarily potential customers for the hardback.
In 2001, Douglas Rushkoff made a similar attempt with his novel, Exit Strategy, published previously in England under the name Bull, in which the characters are caught up in the dot.com bubble – which bust in 2001. Experimenting with the idea of an open-source novel (which, I argue, had failed to meet the criteria of “open-source,” although, admittedly, the project was an intriguing experiment in and of itself), Rushkoff posted the novel online and asked his readers to annotate the manuscript assuming the role of an anthropologist under the premise that the entire text was written in present day, but then hidden online, only to be discovered 200 years from now.
Traditional publishers – according to Rushkoff - could not understand his willingness to devalue his “copyright” by posting it online—for free.
Other voices of skepticism viewed Rushkoff’s project as an “online scam” and even the journalists who came to interview him could not see it as anything but a covert business plan, suspecting that there must be a catch. Ultimately, no traditional US publisher dared to make an offer on a book that was slated to be released online, for free, before it was released in print. Yahoo Internet Life agreed to host the project while a small publisher, Soft Skull, agreed to publish the resulting novel. Rushkoff donated all of the profits from the sale of the book to the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Free Software Foundation. True, this is not PIRACY. But Some authors are giving away their content for free, which demonstrates that when users obtain something for free, there are still other things to buy, a point that Chris Anderson argues quite effectively in Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business.
To make this point crystal clear, Steve Lieber, discovered that the good folks at 4chan had scanned and uploaded every single page of his comic book Underground – from a Twitter message. But instead of screaming piracy, Lieber paid a brief visit to the 4chan forums to engage the fans who liked his work so much that they put in the effort to share it with the world. Rumors has it that Lieber cracked jokes while he was there and lived to blog about it. According to Lieber, there was a massive spike in the sales after 4chan got a hold of his content:
Note the difference between a glowing review from BoingBoing – one of the more “traditional” new media websites – and the “humungous” influence of the new new media outlet that is 4Chan. Is this a barometer for how content will be marked in the future? Some say it could be.
Om Malik’s recent blog post briefly examines why mainstream media outlets are failing – repeatedly – and makes a convincing case that there is no new media– it’s all about new consumption.
Here’s my favorite excerpt from the post: “Generation D, where D is for disruption, is adapted to route around the old models: old models controlled by old men.” Malik’s argument is that media industries are failing to see the big picture and understand what he characterizes to be the “new Internet people” which, I am assuming, probably includes the popcorn farts, IRC dwellers, 4chan, torrenters, YouTubers, and… well… participatory culture in general.