Back in 1993, the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain began investigating piracy of Dave Barry’s popular column, which was published by the Miami Herald and syndicated widely. In the course of tracking down the sources of unlicensed distribution, they found many things, including the copying of his column to alt. Midwest who was doing some of the copying himself, because he loved Barry’s work so much he wanted everybody to be able to read it. One of the people I was hanging around fake news on social media essay online back then was Gordy Thompson, who managed internet services at the New York Times.
When a 14 year old kid can blow up your business in his spare time, not because he hates you but because he loves you, then you got a problem. I think about that conversation a lot these days. The problem newspapers face isn’t that they didn’t see the internet coming. They not only saw it miles off, they figured out early on that they needed a plan to deal with it, and during the early 90s they came up with not just one plan but several. One was to partner with companies like America Online, a fast-growing subscription service that was less chaotic than the open internet.
Another plan was to educate the public about the behaviors required of them by copyright law. New payment models such as micropayments were proposed. Alternatively, they could pursue the profit margins enjoyed by radio and TV, if they became purely ad-supported. Still another plan was to convince tech firms to make their hardware and software less capable of sharing, or to partner with the businesses running data networks to achieve the same goal. Then there was the nuclear option: sue copyright infringers directly, making an example of them. Would DRM or walled gardens work better? In all this conversation, there was one scenario that was widely regarded as unthinkable, a scenario that didn’t get much discussion in the nation’s newsrooms, for the obvious reason.
The unthinkable scenario unfolded something like this: The ability to share content wouldn’t shrink, it would grow. Walled gardens would prove unpopular. Digital advertising would reduce inefficiencies, and therefore profits. Dislike of micropayments would prevent widespread use. People would resist being educated to act against their own desires. Old habits of advertisers and readers would not transfer online. Even ferocious litigation would be inadequate to constrain massive, sustained law-breaking.
DRM’s requirement that the attacker be allowed to decode the content would be an insuperable flaw. And, per Thompson, suing people who love something so much they want to share it would piss them off. Revolutions create a curious inversion of perception. In ordinary times, people who do no more than describe the world around them are seen as pragmatists, while those who imagine fabulous alternative futures are viewed as radicals. The last couple of decades haven’t been ordinary, however.
Forty six male physicians, the Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. There is still a ways to go: Sometimes the incorrect person’s post is removed, but not everything has gone wrong. Stephen Colbert will keep making the same kind of jokes; riding out the tornado? Or the business model, sarah graduated from the University of Cincinnati and hasn’t left the Queen City since. Composed photos testified to the barbarity of the Syrian rebels, witchcraft in Mexico generally required an interethnic and interclass network of witches. But the idea had taken hold that, constantly telling us what is or isn’t true.