James Murdoch Is Very, Very Confused About Copyright Infringement (And So Is His Dad, Rupert)
from the good-luck-to-you dept
What may be more interesting, however, is what Rupert Murdoch's son, James Murdoch was saying at the very same event. He didn't just echo his father's blatantly incorrect notions of copyright, he went way beyond them. The younger Murdoch, who apparently is the current heir apparent to the Rupert Murdoch throne at the top of News Corp., made a bunch of statements about copyright infringement that sound like the typical comments of someone who has just entered this debate and has never thought about the actual issues. That is, he trots out the ridiculously wrong line that infringement is the same as "theft":
"We need enforcement mechanisms and we need governments to play ball... There is no difference with going into a store and stealing Pringles or a handbag and taking this stuff. It's a basic condition for investment and economic growth and there should be the same level of property rights whether it's a house or a movie.... The idea that there's a new consumer class and you have to be consumer-friendly when they're stealing stuff. No. There should be the same level of sanctity as there is around property. Content is no different. They're not crazy kids. No. Punish them."Where to begin? First of all, yes, there's a very big difference between going into a store and stealing Pringles (why Pringles?!?) or a handbag. If you do that, the Pringles or the handbags are now missing, gone, kaput. If you make a copy of a digital file, the original is still there. You've just created a new one. And, no, it's not "a basic condition for investment," that there needs to be the same property rights in a house or a movie. The two things have never had the same property rights. A house never goes into the public domain after a certain period of time. There is no fair use of a house (though, to be fair, the Murdoch family seems to think that fair use doesn't exist either, despite relying on it heavily in some of their companies). And there's a reason that there are those significant differences, and it has to do with basic, fundamental economics, and the difference between scarcity and abundance.
Honestly, seeing James Murdoch's words immediately call to mind Larry Lessig's recent talk where he discusses how the current media bosses at companies like Viacom are dinosaurs, with the younger generation waiting in the wings to take over, claiming that they don't hold these same draconian notions on copyright. Except, in this case, James is the younger generation which is supposed to get this stuff.
Perhaps he should take some notes from his (slightly older) sister Elisabeth, who recently made comments that appear to be the exact opposite of what her brother and father are saying:
"Fans remain the best salesmen of our content, even if that behavior is on the borderline of piracy. Danger of the new world is that we must concede that we'll lose some control."I wonder if James' "the idea that there's a new consumer class and you have to be consumer-friendly" line was directed at his big sis. Of course, in that recent NY Mag profile of Rupert, it notes that many people expect Elisabeth to come back into the News Corp. fold at some point (she left to start her own -- successful -- TV production house). Either way, if James really does get control over News Corp., it sounds like it'll be more of the same: more misunderstanding about how copyright law works, more misunderstanding of the economics of content and more mistakes designed to hold a company in the past, rather than embracing the future.