Dealing with Disruptive (aka Opportunity-Creating) Technology


This passage from Matthew Rees’s Wall Street Journal review of Move Fast and Break Things by Jonathan Taplin is worth highlighting:

It may be hard to get stirred up about the interests of celebrity millionaires like Ms. Swift and Sir Paul, but the broader concern is legitimate: how to reward those who create content—music, film, even mere words—in an era when technology can distribute it at virtually no cost. In “Move Fast and Break Things,” Jonathan Taplin argues that today’s technology behemoths are decimating content industries and eroding the broader culture. …

[Taplin] devotes more space to a more mundane concern: money. Consider music revenues. Last year, in the U.S., they were $7.7 billion, down from $19.8 billion in 2000. In 2015, music creators earned more from the sale of vinyl records than they did from music streams on YouTube and other platforms. “How can it be,” Mr. Taplin asks, “that the arrival of digital networks composed of billions of music fans has not been a boon to musicians?”

In essence, this is the complaint of gatekeepers.  Note the assumptions embedded in the phrasing of the question: “how to reward those who create content?”  Are they rewarded, or do they earn their money?  And either way, who gets to decide what is worth rewarding?  Taplin complains that “the economics of ‘more’ [may be] drowning us in a sea of mediocrity.”  Well, it’s up to the non-mediocre to prove it, and it’s also up to those who want to support their preferred content to find ways to do so.

This is all on the content creators and those who make a career of helping them to find an angle, as well as their fans.  They have to prove that they’re worth the consolidation of society’s entertainment resources.

One can see in Taplin’s perspective the same mentality that leads to high taxes and big government: this insinuation that particular interests should find ways to use government to spread the costs of doing things they want done, but for which they don’t want the responsibility of paying.

  • Mario

    That reminds me of a good article I just read on a similar topic. The article speaks for itself, but there’s a small point about differing approaches to copyright that I found interesting.

    Copyright terms have been radically extended in this country largely to
    keep pace with Europe, where the standard has long been that copyrights
    last for the life of the author plus 50 years. But the European idea,
    “It’s based on natural law as opposed to positive law,” Lateef Mtima, a
    copyright scholar at Howard University Law School, said. “Their whole
    thought process is coming out of France and Hugo and those guys that
    like, you know, ‘My work is my enfant,’” he said, “and the state
    has absolutely no right to do anything with it—kind of a Lockean point
    of view.” As the world has flattened, copyright laws have converged,
    lest one country be at a disadvantage by freeing its intellectual
    products for exploitation by the others. And so the American idea of
    using copyright primarily as a vehicle, per the constitution, “to
    promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts,” not to protect
    authors, has eroded to the point where today we’ve locked up nearly
    every book published after 1923.