May 12, 2005

File-sharing controversy and the rules of PR campaigns

Fred von Lohmann responded on filesharing: (excerpted)

... And I think we need to emphasize the many virtues of fan-driven, wide-open file sharing. We ought not abandon the fans and join the chorus telling them to hang their heads in shame for building the greatest music library in the history of the world.

The problem, of course, was the lack of compensation to artists and owners. On this point, I agree with [Derek Slater] -- file-sharing without compensation is not realistically sustainable, nor good in the long run for those who care about music or the Internet. But recognizing that, and working on a solution for that problem, is not the same thing as saying that file-sharing is wrong. All the instincts that made file sharing so successful are exactly the right instincts for a vibrant creative, cultural and innovation environment."

I suggest there's a further problem in the discussion, regarding target audience. In a policy paper which is pitching the recording industry, it may be important to write at length indicating one's extreme moral disapproval of file-sharing without compensation. That's part of establishing one's credibility with the business audience, of convincing them to trust you at least long enough not to be dismissed out of hand.

But as far as I've ever been able to measure, in a general sense, to a first-order approximation the effectiveness of one's message is determined by one's press-reach divided by the press-reach of opponents (strongly modified by whether the audience wants to believe the message). And sadly, not intellectual rigor or moral fortitude. Those are way down the list of factors (yes, I've grown bitter). Thus, a PR campaign which wants to promote the positive and worthwhile effects of technological advances in methods of content distribution (i.e., cheap copying), won't necessarily benefit from spending large amounts of time being critical of the negative effects of these changes on old business models.

That doesn't automatically imply support of infringement. There can of course be nudge-nudge-wink-wink campaigns. As the lawyers say, it's a "fact-specific" situation. But given that I've seen the context of bad behavior, my view is that this isn't it.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight | on May 12, 2005 09:06 AM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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Care to debate the "idiocy" of Libertarianism here?

Posted by: Veritas at May 12, 2005 11:58 AM