What Jaron said …

Peter JonesInformation Ecology, Innovation, Media Ecology

Today’s New York Times places Jaron Lanier as a central voice contra-pundit to the extremes of discourse in the SOPA/PIPA copyright controversies. I’ve posted my thoughts directly in response to other articles. Jaron’s is one of the long-range views that actually comes from insight into multiple industries and the effects of poor decisions made a long time ago.

Essentially, yes, SOPA is bad and poorly written, as is all legislation in the Boehner house. What do you expect? To blame it all on “corporate evil” is misguided and hypocritical. It is easy for consumers demanding anything and everything for free , but free consumption has costs to producers. Jaron points out the devil’s deal the cheap consumer made a long time ago, and how that’s playing out now in the oscillation back to hard protections as encoded in these bills. I cite one quote in fair use from The False Ideals of the Web:

The adulation of “free content” inevitably meant that “advertising” would become the biggest business in the open part of the information economy. Furthermore, that system isn’t so welcoming to new competitors. Once networks are established, it is hard to reduce their power. Google’s advertisers, for instance, know what will happen if they move away.

This belief in “free” information is blocking future potential paths for the Internet. What if ordinary users routinely earned micropayments for their contributions? If all content were valued instead of only mogul content, perhaps an information economy would elevate success for all. But under the current terms of debate that idea can barely be whispered.

When faced with a near-term looming threat (SOPA) people respond as if their ethical stance was obvious. But Jaron is right – few people are arguing the merits of some control and what that would look like. Yes, industry lobbyists wrote bad law to protect corporate business models, but what if creative producers had a better ability to protect and sell their own work?

Kevin Kelly,Wired, Free culture have created an environment where a few people earn a lot and a milliion people create stuff for no return. In the past they would have sought some compensation – now we have a strong culture valuing free consumption. And it is not a generous culture. It is a cheap future in a world where IT has already swept through and streamlined our once-thriving creative and technical jobs in several technology waves.

Could we re-envision that future where creative people earned a living doing what they loved, and  Google and Facebook were able to split some ad money to the content producers? Rather than selling our “free” work as advertising fodder? Lanier asks that we at least use this opportunity to question the values behind both sides valid points.