Anthony Accardo, a senior research analyst (or "Imagineer") for the Disney Corporation, recently posted an article in response
to another HBR writer's earlier post arguing that Big Content is stifling innovation
. With wording that eerily echoes U2 manager Paul McGuinness' handout plea of a few weeks ago
, Accardo posits that the stifling of creativity is actually due to recalcitrant techies and their unwillingness to craft a better world for content producers.
There's a whole lot of suppositions in Accardo's 800-word piece, most of which range from "wrong" to "laughable." Accardo leads in to his point-by-point dismantling with this presumptuous sentence:
"While I agree that content owners need to be much more open to embracing technology and innovation, I can't help but point out some fundamental issues emanating from the tech community and 'copyleft' that obfuscate the real issues of copyright, digital monetization, and technology."
Well, now that one side of the argument has been marginalized as "obfuscation," we can go on to have a balanced discussion. Issue #1? Patents vs. copyright. And the techies are on the wrong side of this as well:
"A bias toward respecting the rights of patents over copyright exists in tech culture, and copyleft has sprung out of this."
Really? As a proud member of what I assume is the "copyleft" movement (i.e., anyone who isn't a member of Big Content?), I think I can safely say that we have as little respect for overzealous patent holders as we do for overzealous copyright holders.
Next, Accardo goes after our "bias":
"One feels a little like Jon Stewart watching Fox News when reading a public statement by Lawrence Lessig or a post on Torrentfreak.com. The villain, Big Content, is always trying to take away our freedom and privacy by preventing us from enjoying Lady Gaga's newest album."
I'm going to let that one ride (inlcuding the assumption that we equate freedom and privacy with Lady Gaga) because he tops it two sentences later:
"Big Content uses its limited power and influence to look out for the little guy's rights as well."
As an employee of the Disney corporation, I'm amazed he could type this with a straight face, much less allow it to be published unaltered. Even the most maximalist of copyright holders would have trouble with that sentence.
If being able to leverage the US government to alter other nations' copyright laws is "limited," I'd really hate to see what damage Big Content would do if they were bumped up to "adequate." Is having the power to shut down entire domain name servers too "limiting?" How about warrantless searches?
"Look out for the little guy?"
Since when? Since being shamed into coughing up a fractional percentage of the Limewire settlement? Did we get it all wrong and the midnight move from "artist" to "work for hire" actually make things better for your average musician, freeing them from the massive responsibility of owning their own recordings? Is opaque accounting a fringe benefit for artists under contract?
Honestly, Accardo should have ended it there. He can't possibly top that obtuse declaration. What he does instead is lay the blame for Big Content's failures at the feet of actual innovators:
"Imagine if the tech giants used their powers of innovation to better detect and control online copyright infringement rather than the bare minimum steps companies such as Google take - omitting an app from the Android market or omitting a few search terms? If they helped take the head out of the bell curve of piracy with some creative innovation, we'd be seeing licenses thrown around to the Googles and the Spotifys of the world."
Yeah! Imagine if! Imagine if the tech companies went ahead and did all your work for you! The only thing they've given you so far is every tool imaginable to create, promote and sell your digital product.
You use their innovations daily and yet you still have the audacity to blame them for not stopping piracy. Tech knows piracy can't be stopped and has moved on. It's only the holdouts from Big Content that are still thinking they can cut every head off with enough legislative pressure and the hell with the First and Fourth Amendments. Those are inefficiencies from a bygone age. Big Content has too many inefficiencies of its own to worry about.
And as for your precious "licenses"? Who wants 'em? Do you think these tech companies are dying for the chance to pay ever-increasing fees and get double or triple-dipped for every audio or video stream?
If you're finding tech leery of helping you, perhaps it's because you never stop taking. You want them to police the internet for you (along with the ISPs), push your products, crawl your news, find you new revenue streams and create new formats. And in exchange they'll get thrown under the legislative/judicial bus every chance you get. No wonder the techs have turned their back on you. They've already seen how you've treated your own content creators for decades and now have to attempt to innovate while warily watching you blunder around in search of a soft target.
The innovators of the world owe you nothing.