writes in to ask our thoughts on the interesting interview Liz Gannes conducted with former Disney CEO, Michael Eisner
. At the end, after saying he thinks the Viacom lawsuit
is "very promising," he puts forth a monologue about the importance of intellectual property in history -- saying patents were important since the time of Lincoln. I guess, his history lessons didn't go back to the founding of our country when folks like Jefferson felt quite conflicted
about whether or not a patent system was actually good for the country. It's no surprise that Eisner would be such a strong supporter of intellectual property rights -- after all, many have noted that it was Disney's strong lobbying under his watch that helped extend copyrights again and again, just to keep Mickey Mouse's copyright out of the public domain. However, he seems to be confusing correlation with causation again. Stronger intellectual property laws often follow
periods of innovation, when the innovators want to then be able to sit back and protect their works rather than keep innovating. Disney is a perfect example. Mickey Mouse itself was a play on a popular movie at the time, and many of Disney's works pulled from the public domain. It's only after Disney was able to create derivative works that it wanted to deny everyone else that same ability. In the meantime, it might be worth pointing out that Eisner left Disney as the company was faltering -- and his replacement Robert Iger has helped revitalize Disney not by focusing on controlling its intellectual property, but in freeing it up and making it easier for consumers to do what they want with it
(though, he's still got a long way to go).
Eisner also seems to not grasp the concept of user-generated content at all. He says: "If you can"t pay young user-generators down the line to do it professionally, they won't be motivated to go into that business." The thing is, plenty of people involved in user-generated content aren't doing it for the money -- but for the fun, the exposure and the reputation. He may be worried that they won't go into the space "professionally" if there's no business model, but that assumes (falsely) that you need strict copyright control to have a business model. As more and more creative professionals are realizing, that's not true at all. There are lots of ways to make money off of content by embracing things like having your fans promote your work on YouTube, and using that to help sell other things. Just because Eisner doesn't see those business models, it doesn't mean they don't exist -- though, it may make you wonder about the potential for the online video companies he's been investing in lately.