Wednesday, 14 October 2009

100 years of technology fears

Ars Technica has an interesting historical retrospective : a look at 100 years of Big Content's fearmongering, in their own words. Remember when Lawrence Lessig spoke at Pitt Law, and told us about how John Philip Sousa in 1906 warned that recording technology would destroy the US pastime of gathering around the piano to sing music ("What of the national throat? Will it not weaken? What of the national chest? Will it not shrink?"). Well there are other instances of technofear. For example, regarding the Xerox machine; in 1972,Time magaizne quoted UCLA law professor Melville Nimmer as saying, "the day may not be far off when no one need purchase books" thanks to the sinister uses of the copier. There was the VCR in the 1970s, which a movie lobbyist predicted would result in tidal waves, avalanches, and bleeding and hemorrhaging by the music business. He compared the VCR to the Boston Strangler — in this scenario the US public was a woman home alone. Then home taping of music, digital audio tape, MP3 players, and Napster, each of which was predicted to lay waste to entire industries; and so on up to date with DVRs, HD radio, and HDTV. The article concludes with a quote from copyright expert William Patry in his book Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars: "I cannot think of a single significant innovation in either the creation or distribution of works of authorship that owes its origins to the copyright industries."

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