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March 28, 2005
The Fish & Chips Defense
Amusing piece on Grokster from The Times in the UK, arguing that technology creators shouldn't be held responsible for how people use the technology -- after all, no one argues for shutting down the presses when you roll up your newspaper and use it to swat fellow commuters on the Tube, or (heaven forbid) load it up with fish & chips, "all saturated fat, thus exposing News International to vast potential costs in some future obesity lawsuit."
The street finds its uses, eh?
More good (and more serious) bits:
Established interests have never much liked innovation. Back in 1906 the composer John Philip Sousa predicted "a marked deterioration" in musical tastes as newfangled gramophones "reduce the expression of music to a mathematical system of megaphones, wheels, cogs, disks, cylinders and all manner of revolving things." Similar battles were fought over the printing press, photocopier, mechanical piano, radio and television. Remember how home taping was going to kill music a generation ago? Music seems to have survived.
Why should the music industry be able to close such communications channels? Just because technology comes along and disrupts existing business models, should copyright owners not find clever ways to adapt, rather than suing 12-year-olds and fighting software developers in court?
If the studios do win, it will be the consumer who loses. The next generation of digital music players, internet telephony, TV recording equipment -- all will suffer from a new legalistic caution that will stifle progress. The music lobby may have more star names on its side: a Sheryl Crow and a Brian Wilson for every Terence Trent D'Arby on the software companies' side. But if the music lobby wins, you might as well swap your iPod for a Thomas Edison wax cylinder.
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