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8/10/2007
12:36 PM
Cory Doctorow
Cory Doctorow
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Why Is Hollywood Making A Sequel To The Napster Wars?

Shutting down Napster was a huge blunder for the record companies, leading to the collapse of the entire industry. Now, movies and TV studios are looking to repeat the failure by going after YouTube, says columnist Cory Doctorow.

But if the entertainment industry squeezes these players out, ThePirateBay and mythtv are right there, waiting to welcome us in with open arms. ThePirateBay already has announced that it is launching a YouTube competitor with no-plugin, in-browser viewing. Plenty of entrepreneurs are looking at easing the pain and cost of setting up your own mythtv box. The only reason that the barriers to widespread adoption of BitTorrent and mythtv exist is that it hasn't been worth anyone's while to capitalize projects to bring those barriers down. But once the legit competitors of these services are killed, look out.

The thing is, the public doesn't want managed services with limited rights. We don't want to be stuck using approved devices in approved ways. We never have -- we are the spiritual descendants of the customers for "illegal" record albums and "illegal" cable TV. The demand signal won't go away.

There's no good excuse for going into production on a sequel to The Napster Wars. We saw that movie. We know how it turns out. Every Christmas, we get articles about how this was the worst Christmas ever for CDs. You know what? CD sales are never going to improve. CDs have been rendered obsolete by Internet distribution -- and the record industry has locked itself out of the only profitable, popular music distribution systems yet invented.

Companies like Google/YouTube and TiVo are rarities: tech companies that want to do deals. They need to be cherished by entertainment companies, not sued.

(Thanks to Bruce Nash and The-Numbers.com for research assistance with this article)

Cory Doctorow is co-author of the Boing Boing blog, as well as a journalist, Internet activist, and science fiction writer. Read his previous InformationWeek columns.

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