Many opinions will be written today, arguing that the Supreme Court decision on Grokster is good or bad. I see no point in another such outburst. The justices have said copyright holders can sue technology firms that aid and abet illegal file sharing. It is the law. But the law is not the future. And the future belongs to those who not only allow but reply upon file sharing in their business models. And that’s not just me talking. In fact it’s a higher authority than The Nine. The entire fabric of the Internet is implicitly whispering “share.”
There has never been a medium like the one through which these words are reaching you. The Net enables us to form spontaneous connections with people of like mind, whether down the street or around the world. These can be casual exchanges or lasting collaborations. Forty years ago, the Canadian scholar, Marshall McLuhan, called the world a “global village.” The term described the ways in which print, radio and television, tied disparate peoples closer together than ever before.
The Web turns the global village into a global room, in which we keep bump into kindred spirits accidentally, perhaps through the use of a search engine. That’s how I found Joe Gratz, a law school graduate living in San Francisco. He provided links to the decisions and some of the news reports. Next time I’m curious about intellectual property rights, who would I turn but my new buddy Joe — who I’ve never met.
The other thing about this global room is that when we do find someone or something we like, we pass it on — as I did above. The ethos of the Web reminds me of a folk song entitled “Magic Penny.” Writing about love, songwriter Malvina Reynolds writes:
It’s just like a magic penny
Hold it tight and you won’t have any
Lend it, spend it, and you’ll have so many,
They’ll roll all over the floor.
Substitute information or entertainment for love and I think the same concept applies. Now I’ll be honest. I don’t yet know exactly how people — especially me — will turn this magic penny media distribution system into larger denominations. My current favorite dream is to get invited to do lucrative speaking and live performance events. I could tell jokes and stories, and sing. (Although the wisenheimer who sits in front of me at work insists that I’d better not quit the day job until I add plate-spinning to the routine.)
So please don’t hold it against me if I don’t see the precise shape of the future. But I think you can see for yourself that the present is not like the past. So as Bob Dylan has said:
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a changing
Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media
P.S. Please share this will all your friends. Well, maybe not with all your friends ’cause that would be spam, and there’s others laws against that!