Keeping Track of What we Read in Class

I was looking all over for the syllabus from a course I was fortunate to take in the fall of 2006 at USC, Set-Top Box: Hollywood’s Secret War on Your Living Room. As if it wasn’t enough to meet weekly with Cory Doctorow, the guests he brought in and the material we read were priceless and it has all stuck with me in many ways. Having tracked down the syllabus in an old socialtext wiki I thought I’d reprint it here so I no longer have to dig and dig and dig to refer back to some of the readings. The class blog and my class project are still online.

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Bono Bloody Bono – Ten for the Next Ten – NYTimes.com

Intellectual Property Developers

Caution! The only thing protecting the movie and TV industries from the fate that has befallen music and indeed the newspaper business is the size of the files. The immutable laws of bandwidth tell us we’re just a few years away from being able to download an entire season of “24” in 24 seconds. Many will expect to get it free.

A decade’s worth of music file-sharing and swiping has made clear that the people it hurts are the creators — in this case, the young, fledgling songwriters who can’t live off ticket and T-shirt sales like the least sympathetic among us — and the people this reverse Robin Hooding benefits are rich service providers, whose swollen profits perfectly mirror the lost receipts of the music business.

We’re the post office, they tell us; who knows what’s in the brown-paper packages? But we know from America’s noble effort to stop child pornography, not to mention China’s ignoble effort to suppress online dissent, that it’s perfectly possible to track content. Perhaps movie moguls will succeed where musicians and their moguls have failed so far, and rally America to defend the most creative economy in the world, where music, film, TV and video games help to account for nearly 4 percent of gross domestic product. Note to self: Don’t get over-rewarded rock stars on this bully pulpit, or famous actors; find the next Cole Porter, if he/she hasn’t already left to write jingles.

Bono’s insinuation that content must be tagged, tracked, and protected in the interest of the creator is an uneven (if not borderline fascist) suggestion.

The biggest problem with this is that bandwidth regulation affects not just entertainment (whether downloaded, streamed, for pay or for free) but everything else that operates in the digital space.

Which includes education, charity, government, and most ironically, the development, production, and broadcast of creative content itself.

Read up on Net Neutrality Bono. The movie industry is booming (in spite of a relative abundance of poor content). But the service providers aren’t just stuffing their pockets with profit, they’re limiting both consumers and creators by throttling bandwidth.

Don’t wage war on the Internet, Bono. Talk about putting your back up against the wall… please don’t go singing that song.

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