Scary Speech from Edgar Bronfman Jr. of Seagrams

from the scary-stuff... dept

If you haven't seen the text of Edgar Bronfman Jr.'s speech about the internet, you should definitely read it. It's getting passed around like crazy, and people (reasonably so) are up in arms about it. It reads like a paranoid madman grasping at straws, and trying to convince people it is their patriotic duty to make sure that only the big corporations have control over the internet. It's mindsets like these that cause problems. While he might not say it directly, what he's basically saying is that people, in general, are dangerous idiots, and only a select few (such as himself) should be allowed to tell people what they can and cannot look at on the internet (and how much they have to pay him for that right). I'm tempted to send an economics text book to Mr. Bronfman, because I think he needs a refresher course.


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  1.  
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    scared to death a blood sucking lawyer will sue me, Jun 1st, 2000 @ 2:24pm

    No Subject Given

    Judging from the ideas proposed in this speech this man has got to be a 60 year AOL'er. He seems to believe that people like him and big companies created the Internet. What a baffoon. Imagine if HTML were the product of a company and the only way to create a web page would be to purchase a $600 Visual HTML or whatever. The web would not exist. How about we charge for every email you send and if it crosses a mail relay along the way you have to pay a toll at that gateway as well. Wait a minute, I'm going to patent that idea so no one can ever charge for emal without paying my royalties! You see how stupid it could get if guys like this had their way. It's the openness of the Internet that has made it explode so ignorant fat cats like this guy can make money from it. The Internet renders the concept of owning an idea obsolete. That's what the Internet is based upon. The absoute free exchange of ideas. Sure businesses are going to have to adapt. And change is hard for people who have, up until now, had successful businesses. But just the blacksmiths that didn't learn a new skill when the horseless carriage was introduced the old guys set in their ways will also die out.

     

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    Ein Sneedle, Jun 1st, 2000 @ 5:27pm

    Speaking of idiocy

    First he talks about how intellectual property can be stolen, and that this affects you the ordinary car-owning, mortgage-paying serf. Not copied, stolen. Because of course if he said "how would you feel if someone made an exact copy of your car, and was driving around in it right now and you didn't know" he wouldn't get much sympathy.

    Then he says that if it weren't for intellectual property laws, there would be no content on the web. Again, I guess he implies that when IP is 'stolen' the original ceases to exist.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Fool, Jun 1st, 2000 @ 9:01pm

    A paranoid madman calls the kettle black

    Mike's article, responding to the text from Mr. Bronfman's speech, is the sort that truly hurts those of us who want to be rational advocates for issues such as privacy, anonymity, and intellectual property rights. Frankly, calling someone a 'paranoid madman' strikes me as the pot calling the kettle black. Mr. Bronfman had some good points to make, along side some very wrong-headed thinking. But nowhere did I glean from his speech that he was advocating '[making] sure that only the big corporations have control over the Internet'.

    What follows is what I hope is a more reasoned look at the good and the bad in Mr. Bronfman's speech. I'll attempt to address points made by Mr. Bronfman in the order in which he made them. In that light, I start with the biggest positive point made by him, that is that intellectual property is still property. To me this is obvious, and yet in a comment above we have 'Ein Sneedle' clearly thinking that this is not the case. Ein Sneedle's argument appears to be that since you have not removed the original when you copy a song, then that makes it OK. Using that logic, the following are also OK Copying a music CD onto a CD-R so your friend does not have buy a copy posting the complete text of a best seller on your web site selling a company's trade secrets to a competitor. In each of these cases the original intellectual property was not removed or destroyed. Yet, would anyone argue that these practices are acceptable?

    If I write a song (admittedly not likely), it may take hours, days, or months to do so. That gives the song a value. I have a right, both in my opinion and in the law, to decide how that song is distributed. If you don't like how I choose to distribute it, don't buy it. Then I will go broke. This is capitalism at work success can only come with consumer acceptance. However, your disagreement of my distribution method does not give you the right to steal my song. Period.

    While Mr. Bronfman tended (strongly) to hyperbole, I believe that his basic premise that intellectual property is property is sound.

    Now, Mr. Bronfman goes on to say that intellectual property is the cornerstone of the Internet. Remember, I did use the word 'hyperbole' above! I believe that lowering the barriers to communications among people is the cornerstone of the Internet. Mr. Bronfman might have said, somewhat more accurately, that intellectual property is the cornerstone of the Web (which is only part of the Internet). And even this really only applies to the large commercial content sites such as CNN and ESPN. Without the concept of intellectual property, these sites indeed would not exist. However, the millions of non-commercial sites put up by people whose only interest is in a particular subject would still exist. So, all in all, Mr. Bronfman is making a big stretch here.

    Next, Mr. Bronfman talks about "[moving] a Roman legion or two of Wall Street lawyers to litigate in Bellevue" and flatly states that this is for the benefit of the Internet. OK, OK, it *is* starting to get a bit deep in here ;-) But the fact is, Mr. Bronfman is doing his job. He is the CEO of a company that produces commercial intellectual property (in the form of movies). Seagram stockholders would, and should, boot him out if he _didn't_ defend his company's intellectual property with every tool available to him. In fact, since I believe that intellectual property is indeed property, I have no problem prosecuting its theft. But, let's tell it like it is, and not try to pass it off as some altruistic defense of the Internet.

    Next, Mr. Bronfman moves on to specific areas which Universal is pursuing. First, we hear (again) about a secure music scheme. Although I don't think it will work, I've no real problem with this. Failure comes when companies put their own interests ahead of their customers'. Remember DIVX? If Mr. Bronfman's scheme prevents _Fair Use_ (as in the legally accepted notion of Fair Use of intellectual property), then that scheme deserves to fail, and will fail due to lack of consumer acceptance (remember the capitalism I mentioned before?) Unfortunately, the entertainment industries are doing their very best to prohibit Fair Use and I believe that this is at the center of a great deal of the present day controversy.

    Mr. Bronfman's (and Universal's) second area of interest is in defining thievery. As noted above, I agree. Stealing is stealing, no matter what Ein Sneedle thinks.

    Now on to Mr. Bronfman's third area of interest. (_Warning Will Robinson, danger ahead!_) Mr. Bronfman intends to use technology to "trace every Internet download and tag every file". This is one of the two extremely wrong-headed things that Mr. Bronfman has to say. Here, privacy (*not* anonymity) is lost to commercial interests. Even if Mr. Bronfman would never use this technology to, say, keep a database of who listens to what kinds to music, if the technology exists, someone will. Can you say 'DoubleClick' or 'Real Networks'? I find this completely unacceptable.

    Mr. Bronfman moves onto his fourth point, which is to gloat about existing court decision in favor of commercial interests. I think that this is just bad judgement on Mr. Bronfman's part. _None_ of these cases has reached a final settlement, and the motion picture industry is so clearly wrong in the DeCSS case that they do themselves a disservice by even trying to pass it off as a good thing. But my thoughts today are not about DeCSS, so I won't go there.

    The other very scary area of interest for Mr. Bronfman is his final one, where he attempts to make a case for the destruction of anonymity. This is actually (IMHO) one of the fundamental issues facing our society today with the growth of the Internet. I have always believed (and still believe with reservation) that anonymity is necessary for free speech; i.e., that free speech is best protected when it is possible to speak out without fear of reprisal. My reservation (and the point that Mr. Bronfman latches onto while ignoring free speech) is the ease with which the Internet allows one to abuse anonymity. The important mistake that Mr. Bronfman makes (perhaps on purpose, to avoid the free speech issue) is to equate anonymity with privacy instead of free speech. Mr. Bronfman, don't take on anonymity without an intelligent plan to protect free speech.

    In his next statements, Mr. Bronfman does strike a responsive chord with me. There are, in fact, lots of people on the Internet who do believe that "Everything on the Internet should be free". Perhaps it's these people who are calling Mr. Bronfman a 'paranoid madman'. I am not sure why these people think they were born deserving free stuff. Something is free if, and only if, its creator/owner says that it's free. Anything else is theft. I sure am getting tired of the "I can copy it if I want to" whiners.

    In closing, I would like to discuss briefly Mr. Bronfman's analogy dealing with the US and the former Soviet Union. An interesting analogy, to be sure, however, the Soviet Union didn't fall because all of its citizens and all of its member states obeyed the law. So while Mr. Bronfman is telling us to obey the law, he is comparing that to the good that came from the actions of law-breaking dissidents in USSR. I think that paradox is resolved by drawing a more accurate analogy. Let's make the big record companies the Soviet Union, basically raping both consumers and artists for their own gain, without regard for fairness. Now let's remember again what happened to the Soviet Union.

    If you have had the patience to read this far, I thank you :-)

     

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  4.  
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    Mike (profile), Jun 1st, 2000 @ 9:24pm

    Re: A paranoid madman calls the kettle black

    Wow. That is a great, very detailed response. I really appreciate that...

    And, to be honest, I agree on a lot of your points. Admittedly, I tend to say things in a very quick way in order to put them up on Techdirt, when perhaps a more detailed discussion (such as yours) would be better. However, I still feel the "paranoid madman" comment stands (despite emails received from my family today reminding me that I'm very distantly related to Mr. Bronfman, and perhaps shouldn't be trashing him).

    He definitely comes off as paranoid about how people who are "anonymous" on the internet are in some sense "getting away" with stuff. The madman comment comes from his obvious lack of understanding of the internet in general, but the supposition that he can come up with answers to solve all of its perceived problems... I don't associate that with a sane mind.

    Now, the next point that you bring up concerns intellectual property which is a whole different issue, and one that I am very very interested in. This isn't the best place to get into it, but the simple fact is that intellectual property and tangible property are two very different beasts. Intellectual property does have that very unique property that when someone else gets it, the original copy is not lost, so the idea of "stealing" intellectual property is not accurate, because you are not depriving anyone else of that item.

    Next, from a purely economic standpoint, intellectual property, by itself, should be free. Why? Go back to econ 101 and there's a very simple equation which shows that the price of any good should be the marginal cost of reproducing that good. The sunk or fixed costs that go into it don't matter. When I price a good, it should never be on the price it took to create the whole process, but rather the value of the good. If that value can be replicated for free, the price should be free...

    Now, I understand what you (and plenty of others) say about the hard work and labor that someone puts into a product, but that does not automatically grant them a right to be paid for it. It is the job of that person (the creator) to figure out how to get paid for (if they so chose) and for the market to figure out how to get that item distributed. If the market figures out a way to get that item out there for free, then that's just as capitalistic as selling the product if the market determines that's the way to do it.

    This is hard for some people to swallow, but it really does stand up if you start testing it out. The only places where it does not work are where there are barriers put in place, that make it difficult to pass along that intellectual property. These barriers can come in many forms whether it's technological or legal or some other method.

    However, another point that history shows is that artificial economic barriers tend not to stand up in the long term and are certainly not efficient.

    So... when I talk about why things should be free on the internet, don't think I'm just someone who's trying to get a free ride 'cause it's the cool thing to do. I'm talking about efficiency. I'm a huge believer in efficiency, and I really do believe that the world is a better place when information is more efficiently distributed. I also know that setting up artificial barriers can only be a temporary solution that leads to inefficiency...

    So, my point was really that Mr. Bronfman is merely holding up his hands to the waves and saying "Stop!" It doesn't work that way. Sure, it may seem like the obvious thing to do in his position, but a more enlightened thinker would look at the fundamentals of the situation, get a real understanding of information and intellectual property and try to figure out a new way for his business to thrive moving forward. He needs to learn to change with the times.

    Obviously, there's a lot more to this, and my beliefs on the matter, but I'll just post this for now, and feel free to argue back...

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Burt Masnick, Jun 2nd, 2000 @ 7:52am

    Re: A paranoid madman calls the kettle black

    Your detailed response and the detailed response to your headline message are both well worth reading. Would love to see more of these multi-person debate/essays, which have some meat on them, in addition to the skeletal quips and shots. Perhaps more essays could be invited to the site.

    Signed,
    Yet another (really) distant relative of the aforementioned Mr. Bronfman

     

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  6.  
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    Pogy, Nov 2nd, 2005 @ 11:03pm

    Re: A paranoid madman calls the kettle black

    One of the more intractable conundrums facing those of us who walk erect, is the nagging question of whether 'tis worse to be stupid or ignorant.
    The stupid must, perforce, be forgiven. The Ignorant, are bereft of excuse.
    To first, claim to have attended freshman economics, and then declaim that it taught you an arithmetic naive enough to bankrupt a lemonade stand, puts you more than a few pegs below those whose worst crime is a relatively simplistic and/or selfish notion of privacy.
    Whatever Mr. Bronfmans other faults, I'd not acuse him of an inability to balance his checkbook.
    Your entire stance crumbles. Built as it is on a quicksand lot.
    Having you argue the case for the individual is a Klansman's endorsement.
    You do us no favor by adding more monkey howl to the din.
    What your spouting is a sort of childish parroting of a Kantian style labor theory of value.
    You heard it in the first half of class #2, as an example of what doesn't work.
    Net Miester that you are, Try googling the word 'capitalism' and see if you can reconstruct the rest of the semester.
    You sneer at Him and his ilk, with drool chasing your lips, and all you give them is an excuse to sneer back.
    Damn, Now I don't know who I'm madder at, Him or you.

     

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  7.  
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    Wizard Prang, Dec 7th, 2005 @ 10:45am

    Re: A paranoid madman calls the kettle black

    Wow. All that name-calling is _so_ insightful.

    Beautifully written, I grant you, but lacking any semblance of a point.

    Like you, I believe in paying for my entertainment - the industry cannot survive otherwise.

    However, the Industry is trying to remain constant in a world that has changed. A "STOP THEM!!" mentality and buggy-whip legislation are signs of a crumbling paradigm.

    A major part of the problem is that the law still thinks of Copyright as something to do with copying, while it is really about Commercial Exploitation.

    DRM does not work - Sony should have learned that by now, but they won't - and any restrictions they try to place on what I can do with _MY_ stuff after _I_ have purchased it will meet with the most vehement opposition that I can muster.

     

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  8.  
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    DJ-Panic, May 15th, 2006 @ 3:09pm

    free entertainment?

    It seems to me Mike, that based on your "econ101" course, that ALL entertainment should be free, as it COULD all be given away for free, if the value of the production is not taken into account.

    So I question you...Should it be free to go to the opera? Should it be free to go to all Ballets? Should all musicians be poor and starving, unable to make a living so that the "everything on the internet should be free" people can be cheapskates?

    I normally agree with most of the articles here on Techdirt, and as much as I HATE to agree in any way with some corporate schmoe, I have to agree at least in part. If the people who produce music, software and various arts that COULD be free because distrobution of said good COULD be done for nothing didn't get paid, the world would be a very boring place, as all the creative people in the world would be too busy working at Burger King to have time to be entertaining you.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2006 @ 8:11am

    Just for your information he would not need a refresher course because he did not attend college. He inherited his wealth from the only hard working, moral and caring individual in his entire family...his grandfather Samuel Bronfman.

     

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  10.  
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    tomomary, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 3:59pm

    Re: Re: A paranoid madman calls the kettle black

    I have seen this coming since the invention of the now obsolete concept of
    recording movies on a VCR. 1970. Video Cassette Recording, if you remember, VCR, was meant to merely shift the time that one could watch a film to a more convenient time. A side benefit was that one could watch more than once. Back then films were being broadcast over one of three networks perhaps only once a year. It was free. TV was free! To the consumer anyway. It wasn't free from the movie maker. His film family or production group was reembursed by advertisers. But, the unsophisticated thought TV programs to be free.

    The new technology, Video Cassette Recording could be used by one to record a film and play it over your own VCR machine at home, at will, for a rental fee. It was perceived that one "owned" the film if one bought it from Blockbuster. But. One did not own it. If you remember a huge FBI warning that said do not copy or go to prison. But, many people copied films anyway because they "owned" it and felt in no danger of being caught. It was on the home shelf wasn't it.

    I hear it now..."Let's just play it for my friends...Let's just show it over the internet to my friends for free." Somehow along the way young generations of children knowing no different regarded this freeware as acceptable and even wonderful. They long ago stopped caring about the FBI warning.

    Now after being in the production of films for 36 years. And losing more money to pirates than one could imagine. It is clear in a moral society that a pirate is a criminal. A thief. This understanding is world-wide and has been so since caveman days. There are petty thieves and their are thieves so gross as to take whole countries away from their fellow men. If this were food (not just a bit of entertainmnet) that you grew on your own farm that cost you money and a years labor one would regard it to have great value. But, what if someone stole it in the night and ate it all before your own family could eat. How then would one feel about the morality of thieves? The theft of intellectual property is a moral and real crime against one's neighbor. If it gets to be a life and death level of intellectual property theft? Say, missile technology. Then the crime becomes more dangerous. It makes a difference if one is on the receiving end of a multi-warhead nuclear weapon that was constructed from stolen intellectual property known as "Blueprints".
    Once a society is corrupted completely and loses the all important "Good Citizenship" of it's people, then societal destruction is not far behind. The "Trust" between people collapses. A sense in common. "Common Sense" is the understanding that makes society work. These are the unspoken rules which guide the hearts of human beings. All else is left to lawyers and the rule of law and the justice system.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    tomomary, Dec 12th, 2006 @ 4:00pm

    Re: Re: A paranoid madman calls the kettle black

    I have seen this coming since the invention of the now obsolete concept of
    recording movies on a VCR. 1970. Video Cassette Recording, if you remember, VCR, was meant to merely shift the time that one could watch a film to a more convenient time. A side benefit was that one could watch more than once. Back then films were being broadcast over one of three networks perhaps only once a year. It was free. TV was free! To the consumer anyway. It wasn't free from the movie maker. His film family or production group was reembursed by advertisers. But, the unsophisticated thought TV programs to be free.

    The new technology, Video Cassette Recording could be used by one to record a film and play it over your own VCR machine at home, at will, for a rental fee. It was perceived that one "owned" the film if one bought it from Blockbuster. But. One did not own it. If you remember a huge FBI warning that said do not copy or go to prison. But, many people copied films anyway because they "owned" it and felt in no danger of being caught. It was on the home shelf wasn't it.

    I hear it now..."Let's just play it for my friends...Let's just show it over the internet to my friends for free." Somehow along the way young generations of children knowing no different regarded this freeware as acceptable and even wonderful. They long ago stopped caring about the FBI warning.

    Now after being in the production of films for 36 years. And losing more money to pirates than one could imagine. It is clear in a moral society that a pirate is a criminal. A thief. This understanding is world-wide and has been so since caveman days. There are petty thieves and their are thieves so gross as to take whole countries away from their fellow men. If this were food (not just a bit of entertainmnet) that you grew on your own farm that cost you money and a years labor one would regard it to have great value. But, what if someone stole it in the night and ate it all before your own family could eat. How then would one feel about the morality of thieves? The theft of intellectual property is a moral and real crime against one's neighbor. If it gets to be a life and death level of intellectual property theft? Say, missile technology. Then the crime becomes more dangerous. It makes a difference if one is on the receiving end of a multi-warhead nuclear weapon that was constructed from stolen intellectual property known as "Blueprints".
    Once a society is corrupted completely and loses the all important "Good Citizenship" of it's people, then societal destruction is not far behind. The "Trust" between people collapses. A sense in common. "Common Sense" is the understanding that makes society work. These are the unspoken rules which guide the hearts of human beings. All else is left to lawyers and the rule of law and the justice system.

     

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  12.  
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    Dante', Jan 7th, 2007 @ 4:01pm

    re: Mr. Bronfman

    TWIMC:
    If you really want to know the truth about Mr. Bronfman, and the reasons for his comments, you need to look much deeper into his family's criminal background, and connections to the illegal banking cartel, including the American "Federal Reserve" Bank, which is neither federal nor has any reserve, as well as other illegal cartels, which no one can prosecute because they own both the U.S., (research the Bankruptcy filed by the U.S. in the 1930's, after which America has been run by the banks), and they own the court system, which actually operates under British Maritime Law, and always has. The same cartel created British, Soviet, German, Israeli and the American Intelligence Agencies, including the C.I.A.
    There is more, but that should keep you busy for a while, and hopefully open your eyes. Then maybe you can pass the word and open the eyes of others, as we - the masses are being corralled like sheep.
    Interesting that the new film about the (supposed) truth behind the creation of the C.I.A., is entitled, "The Good Shepherd."
    Good luck and GOD bless us all.

     

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  13.  
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    PATCHACUTI, Aug 14th, 2007 @ 3:50pm

    Sushumna

    u cannot exist without us

     

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  14.  
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    Will, Feb 9th, 2008 @ 9:05pm

    Relax

    OMG - chillax, your silly theories are nothing but reflections of your mind off the facets of the truth. The internet will work as well as people work - no better - no worse, the angles of our nature both better and worse will be exposed.

    Strive as you will – Live as you might.

    Will

     

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  15.  
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    daretoeatapeach, Jun 9th, 2008 @ 3:51pm

    Seems like all this misses the point

    Forgive me for necroposting (surfed here from comment #11 on http://techdirt.com/articles/20080606/1752191338.html). Seems like no one here is getting what to me is the more obvious point. Everyone is talking about whether the copies should be paid for or free, but who are we talking about paying? These lawsuits are not coming from the artists but the destributors. The internet is a far superior distribution system; the product the record companies provide, distribution, is now superfluous. I am happy to pay to see a band perform and slightly less for a copy of that performance (in the same way that a print is worth less than a painting). I am also willing to pay emusic a pittance for the distribution of their product. Most people downloading today would agree with this and feel that the the distributor is taking more of the pie than they deserve. But when you confuse the artist with the distributor I wonder if any of you understand the issue at all (no offense).

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Dec 23rd, 2008 @ 1:07pm

    Link Update

    The original page has gone, but a copy remains at archive.org.

     

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