I'm here in Aspen at the Aspen Institute's Forum on Communications and Society and the opening panel was entitled “The New Media Paradigm,” but it may as well have been called “The Last Gasp of Old Media.” The star of that show was none other than former Disney CEO and Hollings bill (which would have required copy protection technologies in every media device) promoter Michael Eisner. Rather than discuss any new media initiatives he is involved in, he launched into the same old tired “piracy is bad” meme, and repeated ad nauseum the argument that ISPs and sites like YouTube should filter their content for copyright violations (because, you know, they filter for pornography and violence) and that the DMCA should be amended to remove the protection that neutral conduits have for copyright liability so long as they take down infringing material at the copyright holders' request.
But perhaps his most ridiculous shot of the day was at co-panelist Arianna Huffington, publisher of the Huffington Post. Eisner criticized Huffington for a business model that does not pay its contributing bloggers. If people just give away their blog posts to the Huffpo, they will be relegated to working on an assembly line just to pay their bills, he said. What Eisner clearly doesn't get is that those blog posts, while given away for free, provide incredible value in terms of recognition for authors and their organizations (both Art and I blog for the Huffington Post). It also gives people who would have no other way of being heard by hundreds of thousands of people the opportunity to do so. But democratic media is apparently not something a top-down TV and movie guy like Eisner understands.
Eisner was joined in his technology bashing by Jon Diamond, the CEO of ARTISTdirect and the owner of Media Defender, a technology that seeks to block illegal P2P downloads. He threw out all those scary numbers comparing P2P downloads to purchased digital music, but of course left out any mention of the studies showing that P2P users tend to buy more music, or that not every downloaded song equals a lost sale. But at least Diamond briefly raised the issue of whether content providers should somehow try to monetize file sharing and other activity engaged in by tens of millions of people in this country alone. That conversation went nowhere, as Eisner chose instead to invite government to save the media dinosaurs from themselves.