June 2007 Letters to the Editor
These two letters first appeared on StreamingMedia.com in response to Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen’s April/May Editor’s Note, "Viacom vs. GooTube: Napster All Over Again?"
Apples and Oranges
Napster was a nobody who allowed millions to cheat the system. Google, on the other hand, is a billion-dollar company. To expect Google to be "allowed" to make money on Viacom’s content is naïve at best. The fact is, the majority of YouTube’s traffic is not coming to watch home-grown videos of stupid pet tricks.
Before the music industry realized what was going on, they lost control of their content and their business model. Viacom and all other copyright holders have every right to control their content, especially if it means that in not doing so someone else is going to make money off it. Napster and YouTube are alike in that they defined a need in the market. Beyond that they are apples and oranges.
Media for the Masses
Rarely do I get involved in a tit-for-tat discussion, but I had to reply to Mr. Simchock on this issue, because this debate needs to be clear. As a proponent and advocate of what I’ll refer to as "Media for the Masses," let me just say that you’re wrong.
Clearly a P2P network isn’t the devil (IBM does it), nor is a video aggregrator such as YouTube. Google doesn’t have total control over what gets uploaded. Maybe they have almost no control. And since filing lawsuits is the favored form of communicative response in our society, obviously you have a legal argument. But fundamentally, you don’t.
The music industry relied on a business model that was— let’s be honest—a scam. People paid $17.99 for a CD that only contained about two good songs. That’s the truth.
In the opposite corner, kids want stuff for free. It’s fun for them and Napster was brand new technology.
I can’t parse out the middle, because it’s the past. But it wasn’t handled right, and it continues to be handled wrong. The RIAA is a bully and everybody knows it. They should hook up with Acacia Media Research. I’d love to be on that conference call!
As Eric states, "some folktales are universal." Basically, like many other past media revolutions, we’ve moved from audio debate to video debate. And now the movie studios and TV networks get to review the past 10 years and decide if they want Lars Ulrich to be their poster child.
The fact is, they shouldn’t do it. They have the legal right to sue. It’s their content. But here’s the part the record industry never understood. Your audience is the named defendents, stupid! Who do you think you’re suing? It’s the kids. And that’s not even a metaphor!
Now, I assume Google is run by executives. And those executives have lawyers to consult and hammer out the details. They litigate and they write it off as a loss and move on. But the damage is what people remember, and sooner or later, when times are tough, and you start to boo-hoo about revenue (see RIAA, Sam Goody, and Tower Records), people, kids, viewers—now more than ever, since this stuff is all archived—will remember and revisit how you had to sue rather than reinvent and keep up with the changes. It’s your fault that nobody will ever again pay $17.99 for your CD that has two good songs. The snake bit itself.