Steve Jobs, Others Force Clarity in Content Debate
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The success of Apple’s iTunes and other similar ventures is forcing clarity on the digital content debate, according to James DeLong, director of the Center for the Study of Digital Property at The Progress & Freedom Foundation. With increasing amounts of rich content readily available at reasonable prices, he says the argument that piracy is ‘necessary’ is losing steam, and the days of the mass digital free lunch are numbered.
“Many excuses for the legitimacy of P2P music swapping have emerged [whose] rationales are not devoid of merit,” DeLong writes in an article published by Tech Central Station. “Now this justification is out. So it is time for the downloaders to respond and end the free lunch.”
Even with iTunes’ large selection of 99-cent songs and one million downloads during its first week, Apple had to fend off crackers and swapping. According to DeLong, “its only a matter of time until new gaps are found” in this ongoing “arms race”. Who are the “resisters”? There are the “morally obtuse” who want free stuff or feel a “vandalistic itch”, and there is the “more complex, more ideological and more important” group who “assert not only a right but a duty to make all systems for enforcing intellectual property rights untenable, and regard breaking protections as a public service.” He says these two groups tend to merge, “with vandalistic impulses often hiding behind ideology.”
What should be done? DeLong says the creative community must defend “the basic morality and utility of intellectual property”, and “consumers should want to pay for creative work” because it keeps the content coming, sends market signals as to what that content should be and in what quantities. Leaving such marketplace decisions to pie-in-the-sky government programs or benevolent foundations could produce, well, too many digital Edsels. In the end, he concludes, “the ‘information should be free’ crowd is actually the enemy, not the friend of consumers.”
The Foundation is holding a major conference, “Promoting Markets in Creativity: Copyright in the Internet Age,” in Washington on June 10.
The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the impact of the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1993.