March 12, 2002

The Place(s) Where I Live

I live in two places: one is a house in a smallish town in Minnesota; the other is a place called the Internet. I don't spend as much time in my second residence as I would like to -- both work and marriage require me to be present in the non-virtual realm for the bulk of my time. But that doesn't mean that the Internet is any less real a place to me than my physical house.

But it's clear that the broadcasting monoliths, as well as the Feds, consider the 'net just a delivery vehicle. To them, it's just plumbing. There is no interactivity allowed in their worldview: they push stuff at us, and we consume it (for a price). The last two decades -- a nonstop orgy of consolidation, homgenization, and corporatization -- have turned both the AM and the FM airwaves into a bland, featureless glut of noise.

In my non-virtual house, I have few choices: all the "local" stations suck. But in my internet house, I have a plethora of really good alternatives. My internet place's radio is so much better than my physical place's radio that I've given up on AM/FM radio altogether. But if the BigCos and the Feds have their way (via CARP), they're taking my internet radio too. They want to me to eat what they shovel out, like a pig at a trough. I can have whatever I want, as long as it is something they're willing to provide.

It's the same with movies: it's certainly possible to get streaming video over the 'net, but the pinheads in Big Media are scared shitless of the 'net. Interactivity and sharing -- two cornerstones of the place called the Internet -- are anathema to these fools. They want the Internet to be just like TV -- a passive pipe through which they can throw pre-paid bits at us at their leisure.

The DMCA has given "content owners" an obnoxious amount of power over our lives. In effect, they are telling me what I can and cannot do in my own house. It makes no difference that one of my houses is virtual; I feel the same sense of anger and insult. I just hope that the battle is not already lost; I hope the DMCA is repealed, and that some sanity will prevail in the so-called "entertainment industry". But I doubt it.

Which means...

Burn It Down

Big Media (by which I mean entities like RIAA, the MPAA, and just about any media conglomerate you can think of) must die. Their day in the sun is long past. They are an atavistic throwback to pre-Internet days, but they are filled with frightened and brainless suits who would rather kill culture than forsake their accustomed profits. They are leeches, grown fat off the blood of the artists and creators for decades, and who now feel the blood beginning to thin and disappear. They produce nothing; they add no value. Their profits come at the expense of the people who actually create the music and movies we love, and of the people who love to experience these works.

It seems clear that these entities will not go quietly into their well-deserved graves. So we -- the people who create and experience culture -- must help them along. We must starve them. We must apply a virtual flame to their empire, and burn it down. Then, hopefully, something sane and fair will grow in that sanitized ground -- something that will provide artists and creators with a living wage, and at the same time turn all of us into interactive users of culture, rather than slack-jawed consumers of it.