Over the weekend I read J.D. Lasica's (right) book about the Copyright Wars, Darknet: Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation, and was surprised to find open source as an underlying theme.
In breaking down the boundaries between consuming and producing media, people really want an open source model for it, he writes:
On a mundane level, the Darknet is about getting free stuff. On a deeper level, it's about millions of people engaging in a shared media experience and finding a clandestine way to detour around restrictions imposed by the entertainment industry.
The problem is one familiar to readers of this blog, the lack of a business model.
In software, the answer to the business model problem is services. Companies get paid to write specialized code, to install systems, to integrate them, and to support them.
Lasica describes some ways in which the open source media attitude can be monetized in the same way. Things like D.J. Dangermouse's Grey Album, fan fiction sites, and clubs where D.J.s sample snippets of music and film to create new experiences. The problem, he writes, is that copyright owners seek to ban these forms of expression, rather than profit from them.
Think of a Fred Astaire move, an Eric Clapton riff, or a Giorgio Armani design as a piece of code, then see how these are being combined to create new forms of art and experience, he writes. All we need are new business models and entertainment conglomerates can profit like IBM.
Why should we care? It's because the absolutism of the copyright industries prevents open source from even being used to play these works, let alone manipulate them. As computing increasingly moves from being the manipulation of letters and numbers to the manipulation of sounds and images, this absolutism could stop the open source software world in its tracks.
This is a good read, covering the waterfront from movies and music to games. Lasica's prose is accessible, his sources are numerous, and his attitude is more like that of, say, a BSD advocate than a GPL one. Next time I see him, I'll have to get him to autograph my copy. There are worse things to take to a beach this summer.