This Week In Techdirt History: February 7th – 13th

from the when-will-they-learn dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2011, we saw some great stuff. David Guetta suggested “beating” piracy by embracing free music; Neil Gaiman explained how he went from fearing piracy to believing it’s incredibly good; the Khan Academy was moving to leverage the power of BitTorrent; and a study from the Japanese government showed that anime piracy might be boosting sales.

But, on the flipside, we saw even more awful stuff. One rapper sued multiple companies for giving him lots of free promotion; the MPAA was lobbing all sorts of threats at Google over file sharing and suing Hotfile; a report from the IP Czar sounded like it was largely written by pro-copyright lobbyists; and Sony was going nuts over the PS3 jailbreak video, demanding the identity of anyone who watched it even while being tricked into tweeting the critical jailbreak code itself.

Ten Years Ago

Five extra years doesn’t seem to change much. This week in 2006, even while some artists were realizing you could make money giving away free music and the evidence was showing that movie piracy doesn’t reduce sales, plenty of people were still trying to fight this imagined enemy with restrictive licensing terms that kill the value of the product and set-top movie boxes that cost a fortune despite not offering much.

Newsweek, for some reason, was praising Rupert Murdoch as a digital visionary based largely on News Corp’s acquisition of MySpace (which went wonderfully, right?) One look at MTV’s efforts to compete was enough of a reminder that old media really struggles to “get” new media.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2001, Napster was in limbo. It was unclear when its paid, licensed offerings would be arriving, while some were still arguing that it should remain free. Then the word came down that the final ruling on Napster from the 9th Circuit would be arriving the following Monday (so we’ll check in on that next week, naturally).

Wi-Fi was on the rise, but still had some security-related kinks to work out, and mobile innovation was orbiting the still-unborn iPhone with ersatz mashups of PDAs and phones. E-books were starting to make their mark, online shopping seemed due for its true rise, and home networks remained less common than anticipated.

Also, in one of the first instances of a point we’d go on to make many times, we pointed out that content isn’t necessarily king, and connectivity matters a lot.

One-Hundred And Eighteen Years Ago

The justice system, the government, the national security apparatus, the media, the public, espionage, free speech, libel — they are all intersecting topics of interest here at Techdirt, and perhaps no incident in history brings them all together in as sharp a focus as France’s Dreyfus Affair. The details of this infamous miscarriage of justice are far too numerous and intricate to recount here, but one of the most important aspects of the whole thing was J’Accuse, an essay published by Émile Zola as a direct attack on the government, which landed him on trial for defamation starting on February 7th, 1898.

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Comments on “This Week In Techdirt History: February 7th – 13th”

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Lawrence D’Oliveiro says:

The Internet Was Never About Content

I’ve made this point several times on Techdirt: the Internet is all about connectivity, not content.

Consider what online services were available in the early days of the Internet: anybody remember Compuserve, Prodigy, (the original) AOL, BIX? Each one’s selling point was its own exclusive content, not available anywhere else. The Internet had none of that. Yet it swept all before it, to the point where all those proprietary names are now just history.

Why? Because the Internet quickly became the easiest way for people to find each other online. Connectivity won out over content, to the point where the content now has to come to the Internet, not the other way round.

I think the reason why the Internet is so different from other communication media is that it is decentralized. Traditional mass media (radio, TV, print publications) are centrally controlled, so their content is an important part of their sales pitch. The same is true of the (now extinct) proprietary online services. The Internet is the first mass communication medium invented by humans that has no centralized control. That’s why it has been so disruptive.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The Internet Was Never About Content

Fifteen years ago (and just a little bit more)…

Content Is Not King”, by Andrew Odlyzko, First Monday, 5 February 2001

The Internet is widely regarded as primarily a content delivery system. Yet historically, connectivity has mattered much more than content. Even on the Internet, content is not as important as is often claimed, since it is e-mail that is still the true “killer app.”

The primacy of connectivity over content explains phenomena that have baffled wireless industry observers . . .

(Bonus link— just in case you’re unfamiliar with Professor Odlyzko’s work.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The Internet Was Never About Content

I think the reason why the Internet is so different from other communication media is that it is decentralized.

You are almost right, but its main difference from other communications media in that is has the uncontrolled and interactive nature of one to one systems like phones and letters, while providing the reach of selected content broadcast systems like books, papers, radio and television. This power is unlocked by global non curated search engines like Google.

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