Ponderances by Richard Bleil
Yesterday I wrote a piece on my own unique and frankly old-fashioned style. In it, I referred to streaming music services which brought to mind something that has confused me for many years. Well, two things really, but they are related.
The first one is the issue of artistic copyright. I understand that artists need to get paid for their work, and I understand that the corporations that bring us their work needs to turn a profit. I generally don’t have a problem with that, although I do question some of their methodologies. For example, I had neighbors some years ago with a teenager who loved some young “boy band”. One day she was talking with me about a new CD she had ordered. As it turns out, she already had four copies of it. The music company was re-releasing the same CD with something a little bit different in each one. This one was the original, that one has a hidden extra song, the other has a live version that the others don’t and so on. This is profiteering and preying on the young and morally wrong. If the band didn’t have the talent for an entirely new CD, then they should have collected all of that extra little junk and when they have it all just release one last special CD. Heck, it may even bring about a revival for the worthless no-talent hacks.
Not that I have any particularly strong feelings on that topic.
But the point of this was copyright. See, I was already teaching by the time that internet and computer technology allowed for illegal downloading to be practical, as well as illegal file sharing. It started off small and innocuous enough, but soon it blossomed into a serious issue. The music and movie industry at first responded in a way that drove me crazy; they whined and cried and kicked like little spoiled presidents. Oh, sorry, I meant “babies”.
Wow am I in a mood today!
Instead of embracing the new technology, they instead lashed out to keep things off of it. It was an effort destined to fail because, frankly, the internet was specifically designed for file sharing. As destined as it was for the web to explode onto society, the efforts to prevent file sharing was destined to crash. But the entertainment industry had (and still has) huge sums of money and resources, so every time I read yet another story of a college student being sued for hoarding thousands of songs or movies, I couldn’t help but wonder why the entertainment industry doesn’t just use those resources to embrace this new technology? Instead of wasting money investigating and suing in cases that would yield nothing more than an apology letter and a promise to play nice, they could have used that money to find a way to make their products more easily accessible. My friends would ask me how they could make money doing that, but honestly, it’s what radio and television stations have been doing since the 1930’s when radio became widely available.
Eventually the entertainment industry caught up with my question, and today we have streaming music and video services. Some are for a fee, and others give the option of “free” streaming provided you are willing to put up with commercials. Both pay for the licensing to play the music and movies, and everybody is happy. I cannot remember the last time I heard of a story of somebody being sued over their illegal music or movie collection.
I guess I will never understand why megacorporations fight technology, rather than capitalizing on it. We’re seeing it today in the fight between fossil fuels and “green” technology. Start-up companies making wind turbines, solar energy panels, geothermal heating systems and more are fighting for a permanent foothold in the energy market, but the reality is that they are here, and will never go away. Heck, in South Dakota there’s a small town where a mechanic put together a unique wind turbine in his own garage using a truck axle and a vertical rather than horizontal design so there are no blades. The entire thing is encased in a protective cage and looks little more than a chimney coming out of the roof of his business.
So, again, we have corporations with immoral resources of cash fighting to keep things the same. But why is that? Frankly, it just makes good business sense to embrace the new technology and diversify their portfolio if only they can expand their minds a little bit. The auto industry is doing this. There may be some new companies making electric cars, but for the most part, major car companies have their own offerings as well. Why isn’t the fossil fuel industry using their resources to get in at the ground floor with green technology? Then there would be no reason to try to keep the coal mines open and killing people (and the planet for that matter). The transition would simply move these companies to newer technology and ensure their long-term survival. This is also why I know there is no “magical” technology to cure cancer or solve energy problems. If one company found and patented that miracle, they would make so much money in the years before the patent ended that it would be insane to keep it under wraps. But why in the world do corporations insist on hoarding their resources rather than using it to embrace new technologies?!?