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Content wants to be free

By April 9, 2008 4 Comments

In the internet world content needs to be free. This is a theme I have addressed tangentially from a couple of different angles (e.g. Content atomisation and in-feed monetisation or Free ad-supported music coming closer to reality) but this Guardian piece from Vic Keegan takes it head on from a historical perspective (thanks to Communities Dominate Brands for the pointer):

When the 1850 public libraries bill was going through parliament, opposition came mainly from MPs representing the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. They were appalled at the idea of unmediated information getting to people who probably shouldn’t have it and in whose hands it could even be dangerous. In 1950, the film industry defence organisation was established to buy up movies so they couldn’t be shown on the new rival medium of television. These classic examples of organisations trying to thwart new competition (cited at a recent Westminster Media Forum on the creative industries by Lord Puttnam) have their equivalent in today’s efforts by the music industry to throttle the growth of downloads instead of trying to harness them for its own survival.

The message couldn’t be clearer. Institutions from universities to record companies and before long broadcasters respond to new media by attempting to use legislation to quash the perceived threat – and they always fail.

They don’t always fail quickly, but the result is always the same in the end.

For this reason I am drawn to startups that are trying to impose the new world on the old guard, rather than ones that seek to update the old structures for a new era.

If you get off on the historical approach you might also enjoy Andreessen’s current series of posts on the Birth of Newspapers – part 1 here.