Skip to main content

Mike Masnick on Hollywood's Historical Hysterics

I love just about everything Mike Masnick writes (even though I throw in the occasional asterisk to his techno-optimist viewpoint). He recently posted this piece on the hysteria that has surrounded Hollywood each time a new technology shows up on the scene to threaten it.

This latest example comes courtesy of Mary Pickford (), claiming that Pay TV will be "the death of the motion picture industry."

Or, in a similar vein:

Of course, this has clearly not come to pass, and I can appreciate Masnick's point about history repeating itself, but I say in the comments:

The difference between the disruption seen in 1959 and the disruption today, is that it was two different (but related) industries that were vying for control of a distribution medium. Throughout media's modern history, the reigns of power have changed hands but there was still scarcity in play (sometimes artificial, sometimes natural). The gatekeepers changed positions, but they were always gatekeepers.
The Internet removes that scarcity, and removes those gatekeepers. I'm not saying that we won't find a way to benefit from this new structure, but I am saying that it is truly novel, and not just a continuation on a historical curve. I'm not sure that history can inform us on this matter.

If one wants to look to history to help make sense of the economic and cultural disruption that the Internet is enabling, we can't just look at (historically) recent changes in the entertainment industry like they are on a predictable curve. We need to look at those technologies that fundamentally altered the world. Pay TV and VCRs don't inform us on the disruptive power of the Internet nearly so much as studying things like the printing press and the assembly line. And one of the most important lessons we can learn studying those phenomenon is that the people of the time had a horrible track record of prediction, because they couldn't see the revolutionary nature of what was right before their eyes.

As always the Techdirt comments are great, so (while comments are always welcome here) take comments over there, where the real discussion is taking place.


Popular posts from this blog

Crowdsourcing Curation: The Social Graph as Gatekeeper

I've written before about the compromise we tacitly agree to when amateurs take over the roles formerly held by professionsals. The Internet promotes this takeover by lowering the cost of production and transmission to near zero for nearly every user, for everything from words (blogs) to pictures (Flickr) to video (YouTube).

As Clay Shirky put it so well: As freedom to produce increases, average quality necessarily goes down. For example: Thanks to Flickr, we now have access to a mind-boggling array of beautiful pictures, but that's partly because we simply have access to a mind boggling array of pictures, period. Some of these, of course, are beautiful; but there are a lot more of Aunt Bettie's 43rd picture of a bundt cake than of an Annie Leibovitz Rolling Stone cover.

It is at this point that many people interject: "This is the problem with the internet! It's full of crap!" Many would argue that without professional producers, editors, publishers, and the …

Intellectual Property and Deflation of the Knowledge Economy

[Update: This accidentally became a series of posts on a theme.

Does Intellectual Property Law Foster Innovation?Where I question the efficacy of patent and copyright in a socially networked world.

Intellectual Property and the Deflation of the Knowledge Economy - (this post) Where I toy with the idea that the Knowledge Economy may not turn out to be much of an economy, especially when it comes to Intellectual Property

The Economic Reset Button- Where Jeff Jarvis asks Eric Schmidt whether or not this is a fundamental shift in the economic base

Innovative Deflation- Where I ask, "Is the knowledge economy ripe for growth, or is it the means by which traditional economies are shrunk?" ]

Friday night I was discussing the future of intellectual property law with some friends. My argument, in a nutshell:

Every business model relying on intellectual property law (patent and copyright) is heading for massive deflation in our lifetimes. We've seen it with the music industry and news…

COVID-19 and the Tools We Need to Re-open Wisely

There's a lot of graphs and stats that the news is throwing at people right now. So much so, that you can get information overload trying to make sense of the statistics that have meaning. To quote my old Econometrics professor, "There are three types of lies: 'Lies', 'Damned Lies', and 'Statistics' ". I should also lead with the caveat that I'm an engineer and data nerd by trade, but I'm not an epidemiologist. I welcome feedback from those who have more experience than I do.The most important question we're trying to answer (at least here in Michigan), is "How are we doing?", and "When can we reopen our economy?". With respect to those questions, here's my take on the most important data, and some caveats about what these data are telling us.The four most cited data in news stories are:Total Number of CasesDaily New Cases.Total Number of DeathsDaily New DeathsThis post will talk about #1 and #2 above. I'll …