Michael Lynton responds with a confusing analogy to the blogosphere’s blast of his now infamous comment, “I’m a guy who sees nothing good having come from the Internet. Period.”
The fact that he’s following up to add context is great for his argument and his agenda. Unfortunately his choice of analogies or the choice to use an analogy muddles his argument. The Internet isn’t like anything. The abstract workings of how people behave online is not unlike how they behave offline but the details (actual behaviors, reinforcers and consequences) are very different. His analogy, the Interstate System, oversimplifies his argument and the ultimate concept he’s chasing: piracy.
Contrast the expansion of the Internet with what happened a half century ago. In the 1950′s, the Eisenhower Administration undertook one of the most massive infrastructure projects in our nation’s history — the creation of the Interstate Highway System. It completely transformed how we did business, traveled, and conducted our daily lives. But unlike the Internet, the highways were built and operated with a set of rational guidelines. Guard rails went along dangerous sections of the road. Speed and weight limits saved lives and maintenance costs. And officers of the law made sure that these rules were obeyed. As a result, as interstates flourished, so did the economy. According to one study, over the course of its first four decades of existence, the Interstate Highway System was responsible for fully one-quarter of America’s productivity growth.
We can replicate that kind of success with the Internet more easily if we do more to encourage the productivity of the creative engines of our society — the artists, actors, writers, directors, singers and other holders of intellectual property rights — yes, including the movie studios, which help produce and distribute entertainment to billions of people worldwide.
What specific success are we replicating (what is this study he cites?)? How are the physical constraints of the highway system like anything with mostly non-physical Internet? And the bigger question… how is the function of the highway system (move people about) comparable at all to the Internet (move info, place to exhibit, converse, transaction… and so on)?
I don’t know what will reduce piracy. I don’t know what will ensure that Sony and others can make as much money from content as they would like. I do know that Lynton has made no progress to further is argument and perhaps took a step back by not just sticking to this one key point.
But, I actually welcome the Sturm und Drang I’ve stirred, because it gives me an opportunity to make a larger point (one which I also made during that panel discussion, though it was not nearly as viral as the sentence above). And my point is this: the major content businesses of the world and the most talented creators of that content — music, newspapers, movies and books — have all been seriously harmed by the Internet.
At least this is something we can argue. (I don’t think his statement is accurate and I’ll write on that later).