Not Grokked

Well, the Supreme Court just ruled today in the Grokster v. MGM [PDF] case and the big media types won out over filesharing. I have to think that the justices failed to understand the truly revolutionary nature of filesharing technology and the serious chilling effect their decision will have on future innovation. Mark Cuban’s rant on the topic is particularly spot on: technology doesn’t steal content, people do.

And that’s what this is about: free content. The argument goes that if people can sample for free, why would they buy? I find this defense entirely too flimsy, but some folks are swayed. What, then, about legitimate artists – indie artists – looking for a cheap alternative to pressing CDs, DVDs and the like? What about every DIY artisan who doesn’t want to deal with one of these media giants?

The answer, to me, is simple: BitTorrent. Even Microsoft is contemplating a similar delivery system for sharing large pieces of content. If the RIAA/MPAA sue filesharing serviceds (Grokster) and sites (Pirate Bay) out of existence, a better, faster, secure, anonymous networking protocol will emerge. Unfortunately, the Supremes have basically delivered their own version of the DMCA to the media companies. Why sue users when you can sue programmers who create “dangerous” technologies? So long as they can prove someone, somewhere used your new filesharing technology to steal their content, you’re in Federal prison.

Logically, they’ll be coming after Google and Yahoo!, except they won’t. Take a look at their market caps, mindshare and “portal” offerings and you’ll see that the old media already realizes that new media will be the new TV, Radio and Movie Theatre. They just don’t want some punk kid to get in on the action.

I say viva filesharing! You couldn’t stop it before and you won’t stop it now.

More reading:
BoingBoing’s roundoup
‘Grokster’ Technorati tag

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias, via Atrios, has a much more nuanced reading of the decision. He indicates that the majority opinion would apply a much stricter review of the way these services market themselves as oppossed to any actual infringement – kinda like the way the FCC regulates truth in advertising claims. If that’s actually the case and this isn’t some kind of land-grab to reverse the Sony Betamax decision, then why did the big media companies bother? If you can’t shut these players down, learn to use them to your advantage. Release exclusive content as a loss-leader for the CD or DVD. See this new medium as an opportunity and not a threat.

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