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. icon
    Mike (profile), 1 Jun 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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