The Most Anti-Tech Organizations... Or Just The Most Misguided?

from the vote-for-the-latter dept

PC World is running a bit of a linkbait article about "The Most Anti-Tech Organizations in America." Nothing on the list is really likely to surprise you. It starts off (of course) with the RIAA and the MPAA. Somehow the BSA gets something of a pass, even though it's nearly as bad. Perhaps because it represents software companies it's not considered "anti-tech." The big telcos amazingly make the list twice (now that's impressive). Actually, AT&T and Verizon sort of make the list three times, if you include their wireless subsidiaries who make the list as well. Then there's big pharma, who makes the list for standing in the way of any kind of useful patent reform. Amusingly, the only "small" organization to make the list is the "think tank" the Progress and Freedom Foundation, with whom we've had our differences.

While the list does comprise the standard list of organizations many techies have learned to hate, it's really sad to think of how this has shaped up. Too many in the industry still like to think of it as being an "us" vs. "them" situation, where if one side loses, the other side wins. But that's not actually the case. In almost every case, each of the companies listed in the article should be pro-technology and should be embracing technology. If they did, they'd discover things wouldn't be as grim as it is right now. Just imagine if the record labels hadn't followed Doug Morris and Edgar Bronfman Jr. to war with its biggest fans, and instead had embraced technology. They could be thriving today like the rest of the music industry, reveling in the biggest burst of new music in history, combined with faster, better, cheaper and more efficient means of promotion and distribution. Instead, the record labels who fought technology are shrinking fast and blaming everyone but their own misguided leadership. The same is true of almost every one on the PC World list. If each simply learned how to embrace technology, they'd discover that they'd actually be in better shape with larger markets and happier customers. Instead, they find themselves fighting with customers and begging for regulatory help to protect old business models. This isn't a situation where they should be "anti-technology." All of these firms should be pro-technology for their own good.


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  1.  
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    Tim Lee, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 9:22am

    I blog with a couple of PFFers, so maybe I'm biased, but I think the article takes a bit of a cheap shot at PFF. Like any think tank they work on a lot of different issues, some of which could be considered anti-tech (particularly their support for the DMCA, software patents, and other draconian "IP" laws) but they've also done some great "pro-tech" work. My co-blogger Adam Thierer, for example, has done some great work opposing government censorship of the Internet and video games. They've published a lot of things I don't agree with, but I think there are lot of organizations out there that are more "anti-tech" than PFF.

     

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    Mike (profile), Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 9:26am

    Re:

    I blog with a couple of PFFers, so maybe I'm biased, but I think the article takes a bit of a cheap shot at PFF. Like any think tank they work on a lot of different issues, some of which could be considered anti-tech (particularly their support for the DMCA, software patents, and other draconian "IP" laws) but they've also done some great "pro-tech" work.

    Hey Tim... fair enough. It is a bit of a cheap shot for PC World to include them (especially the way they do). However, it does show how far PFF's reputation has sunk within the tech community that it would even get considered for such an article. PFF has taken so many bizarre positions on some issues that they've lost a lot of credibility over the past few years.

     

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  3.  
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    Hulser, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 9:52am

    "In almost every case, each of the companies listed in the article should be pro-technology and should be embracing technology. If they did, they'd discover things wouldn't be as grim as it is right now."

    I think this is true, but with the addition of "...after some radical changes to the business that would most likely be followed by short to medium term losses." Every week on TechDirt we are given examples of how the patent system is broken. But couldn't you also say that the system that emphasizes short term profits at the expense of long term growth/profits is just as broken? It occured to me as I read the post that even a CEO that was very pro-technology might not embrace it in the way described for fear of losing next quarter's bonus.

     

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  4.  
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    Duodave, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 9:57am

    Anti-tech?

    I can't help but think of how some of this thinking would affect say, an episode of Star Trek. Remember when Kirk was shooting a torpedo at a cloaked klingon ship and modified the torpedo to detect fumes from an engine? What if a patent lawyer popped up and claimed the Enterprise was violating a patent by doing that? Or voiding a warranty on the torpedo?

     

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  5.  
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    4-80-sicks, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 10:03am

    Re: Anti-tech?

    Well, all's fair in love and war, you know. Patent lawyers don't really tend to appear on the battlefield. :)

     

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  6.  
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    Danny, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 10:15am

    Re: Re: Anti-tech?

    True. A patent lawyer would wait until you fired the modified torpedo in order to build a stronger case. Nevermind the fact that the lives of Kirk and his crew may have been in danger.

     

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  7.  
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    Old Guy, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 11:16am

    Re: Anti-tech?

    The group was sitting around trying to explain realistic space combat
    to a Trek junkie (you know, the kind that think Trek is the end-all
    be-all of physics) and we got on the subject of kinetic weapons. One
    of the players used as an example, "if we opened up the cargo door and
    threw out the sofa you're sitting on, and it hit a ship, it would
    likely vaporize it." The Trek fan got a very disbelieving look on his
    face and said, "So what would you call that?"

    That's when I popped up and said, "A futon torpedo." :-)

     

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  8.  
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    CZ (with Verizon), Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 11:30am

    Make up their minds.

    PC World, May 2007: VZ broadband top 2007 product. Nov 2007: VZ is anti-tech. PC World: Pick one. Here's my response at Verizon's Policyblog: http://policyblog.verizon.com/policyblog/blogs/policyblog/czblogger1/404/schizophrenic-or-just-mis taken-.aspx

     

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  9.  
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    chris (profile), Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 12:02pm

    Re: Hulser

    But couldn't you also say that the system that emphasizes short term profits at the expense of long term growth/profits is just as broken? It occured to me as I read the post that even a CEO that was very pro-technology might not embrace it in the way described for fear of losing next quarter's bonus.

    the problem with all industry is there are too many MBA's out there that have football and corporate leadership ass-backwards. you can't run an economy one quarter at a time, ask anyone who got a C or better in economics.

    so, it's not a question of IF the system (the copyright system, the patent system, the air line industry, the telco industry, the oil industry) will fail, but how much will it cost to fix once it does? a better question to ask would be "why do we have to wait for it to fail before we fix it?"

    but no, we don't fix things when they break, we fix them once they've collapsed. that's the american way.

     

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    Nick, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 6:23pm

    They like tech when it works for them

    The music industry loves tech, if it has to do with copy protection. Unfortunately their bread and butter is retail CD sales where you get a disc with one or two good songs and the rest filler written by someones uncle to get it out the door. They have gone kicking and screaming to not allow us to just buy the one song we like for a dollar when before we had to buy the whole disk to get it.
    I don't think it's technology that's the problem, at least when it serves their interest like copy protecting things. It's their business model they've been trying to hold on to and of course it led to a huge backlash when a college student could download it for free instead of paying $17.99 in a store.
    It's economics, not technology that has caused such a mess for them. Call RIAA and ask them how they like digital rights management, they are all for it...But not downloading one track when a customer wants it, or the ability to play it in any device they have, that's going too far.

     

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  11.  
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    Not Bob, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 7:01pm

    Futon Torpedo

    I don't care who you are, that's funny!!

     

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  12.  
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    Steve, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 12:33pm

    Re: They like tech when it works for them

    The death of the CD single almost 10 years ago was a direct result of the singles outselling the albums by a WIDE margin the vast majority of the time. They're trying like hell to prop up an outmoded business model that they know can't work in the digital age so they'll try to have protection legislated. It's disgraceful, but it's the American way.

     

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