THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE

This is a good summary of the “Super DMCA” that is being quietly pushed through in states all over the US. (Irony: Unfortunately it requires a subscription – Business2 just changed from a free website to one that is paid.) The essence of the this legislation is that the cable companies are pushing for legislation that gives them more control what kinds of things can connect to the Internet. It’s interesting legislation because one of the things holding back the introduction of good content and more business uses of the Internet is the ‘excessive anonymity’ that means the Internet is a generally too ‘wild and wooly’ for many content providers.

On balance, however, this legislation seems to me to be far too likely to be misused – the idea that new every device, be it a computer, phone or even a firewall/router would have to be approved by a cable company is regressive and out of touch with what makes the Internet so dynamic. The author points out that had AT&T been able to hold on to laws that prohibited the connection on non-sanctioned devices we would not have had the internet become a public phenomenon as modems would likely not have been approved, at least not as quickly.

I see a pattern: it seems that business interests with content under management (in this case cable companies) work to have restrictive laws passed, society does something else (fair use), and the end result is somewhere in between. We saw this with Xerox machines, the cassette tape, and VCR’s. I think that this is similar – technology companies should theoretically be lined up on one side with their interests aligned with consumers – it’s unlikely that the apocalyptic vision that some are afraid of is somewhat exaggerated.

I remember a great story I heard several years ago: RCA was demonstrating the an early video casette to Disney back in the ’70′s and had made this video casette that would only play once before having to be returned to the manufacturer to be reset. Disney’s response: “This is great stuff, but we could never support it. I mean, how on earth could we ever know how many people are actually watching the movie?”

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