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<nettime> Who's Holding Back Broadband? - L. Lessig

newsdiet #4 (more meat)
don't eat the newsfeed. it is already eaten and digested too often. 
smack at least one decent indepth commentary per day.
so then, Declan, what's the connex between:
  - Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act
  - The breakdown of Global Crossing aka Enron aka Worldcom
  - The legislation of Global Coypright Police Technologies
  - Microsoft .NET intitiative

Who's Holding Back Broadband?

By Lawrence Lessig,

Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, January 8, 2002; 11:22 AM

As the American economy struggles to get out of recession, an important
part of the recovery will be the revival of the country's technology

Not long ago, in a speech at a summit on Internet development, Federal
Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell gave the nation a
glimpse of his vision of what might kindle such a revival. At least part
of that vision was refreshingly new.

The key is "broadband." Broadband is the next generation of Internet
service, and it could fuel the next great wave of Internet innovation.
Broadband access is fast, and always on. It could deliver music or video
content as well as applications that have not yet been imagined. It could
offer innovators and creators a whole new platform on which to build.

Surprisingly, however, consumers in the United States have been slow to
adopt broadband. South Koreans are four times more likely to have
broadband Internet access than Americans, Canadians twice as likely. After
five years of push, the market has failed to pull Americans along.

Why? That's a hard question to answer fully. Both the Korean and Canadian
governments have played a significant role in pushing broadband access;
our government has been much more laissez- faire. If that is the reason
for the difference in deployment, then the future here promises to be much
like the past. Powell signaled in his speech that laissez faire was his
policy too.

But the chairman did identify a kind of regulation that may well explain
the slow adoption of broadband technologies by consumers in the United
States: copyright. Consumers are slow to adopt broadband because, while
there may be an infinite number of channels, there is still nothing on.
"Broadband-intensive content," the chairman said, "is in the hands of
major copyright holders." These copyright holders have been hesitant to
free their content to the net. Their slowness, in turn, has slowed
broadband technologies in general.

In part, the reason for this slowness has to do with fear of piracy. Under
existing technologies, digital content is easily copied; given
technologies such as Napster, it is also easily shared. So copyright
holders rightly fear that until they can protect themselves against
piracy, their profits will slip through the net.

But piracy is not the most important reason copyright holders have been
slow to embrace the net. A bigger reason is the threat the Internet
presents to their relatively comfortable ways of doing business. "Major
copyright holders" have enjoyed the benefits of a relatively concentrated
industry. The Internet threatens this comfortable existence. The low cost
of digital production and distribution could mean much greater competition
in the production of content.

Online music is the best example of this potential. Five years ago the
market saw online music as the next great Internet application. A dozen
companies competed to find new and innovative ways to deliver and produce
music using the technologies of the Internet. Napster was the most famous
of these companies, but it was not the only or even the most important
example. A company called MP3.COM, for example, had not only developed new
ways to deliver content but had also enabled new artists to develop and
distribute their content outside the control of the existing labels.

These experiments in innovation are now over. They have been stopped by
lawyers working for the recording industry. Every form of innovation that
they disapproved of they sued. And every suit they brought, they won.
Innovation outside the control of the "majors" has stopped.

Whether or not these courts were right as a matter of substantive
copyright law, what is important is the consequence of this regulation:
innovation and growth in broadband have been stifled as courts have given
control over the future to the creators of the past. The only architecture
for distribution that these creators will allow is one that preserves
their power within a highly concentrated market.

The answer to this problem is the same one that Congress has given to
similar changes in the past. When a new technology radically changes the
opportunity for creation and distribution of content, Congress has
legislated to ensure that old technologies don't veto the new.

For example, when the player piano made it possible for "recordings" of
music to be made without payment to sheet music publishers, Congress
changed the law to require that subsequent recordings compensate the
original artist. Likewise, when cable TV started "stealing" over-the-air
broadcasts, Congress passed a law to require that cable companies pay for
the content they used.

But in both cases, the law Congress passed was importantly balanced.
Copyright owners had a right to compensation, but innovators also had a
right to get access to content. In both cases, Congress established what
lawyers call a "compulsory license," to ensure that the right to
compensation did not become the power to control innovation.

The same sort of change could unleash extraordinary innovation in the
context of broadband service now, as Chairman Powell expressly suggested.
"Stimulating content creation might involve a re- examination of the
copyright laws," Powell argued. For as we've learned from the past,
innovation is often the enemy of the old, and the old will do what they
can to ensure that innovation doesn't innovate away their power.

This administration has been keen to warn of the harm that overregulation
imposes on innovation and growth. It is a refreshing and promising
development to see the chairman of the FCC include the regulation of
copyright within that concern. Copyright laws should of course give
artists and creators an adequate return for their creativity; but they
should not become a tool for dinosaurs to protect themselves against
evolution. Broadband will come when content can roam more freely. Congress
should act now to ensure that it can.

[now playing - king of the boots -

GMX - Die Kommunikationsplattform im Internet.

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