While my friends at PK get to enjoy the fun and toys at CES (someone pick me up a free Sling Box!), I am off to Memphis Tennessee for Free Press' National Conference on Media Reform (although I expect some of my friends now at CES will likewise join me there).
NCMR will bring together a large number of folks (over 3000) who care about issues central to the information commons: how to prevent a few gatekeepers from controlling the flow of information. On the agenda will include spectrum reform, network neutrality, franchising and cable public access, and media ownership.
One of the things NCMR underscores is the width, depth and complexity of the fight to prevent monopolization and propertization of information. As most folks by now realize, information does not “want” to be free any more than it “wants” to be owned or scarce. It's all about policy choices, and whether we as citizens chose to push for the right policy choices.
This is not to say that everyon at NCMR agrees. Unsurprisingly, you'll find a lot of folks on different sides of any given issue. And, alas, you will find many people who focus on traditional media who remain unfortunately ignorant about the capacity for open source and open spectrum to facilitate free speech. Just as I will find many in the open source or oipen spectrum movement who think that what happens in the “dinosaur” conventional media has nothing to do with their lives.
So I am hoping to make folks more aware of each other and their common goals — as well as foster discussion about real concerns. Even if you think that “old media” is a waste of time, you should follow the developments at NCMR. Hopefully, I will convince folks at NCMR that they have a stake in a rich information commons.
In particular, I am hopefull that I and other supporters of rethinking modern copyright and trademark law will take the opportunity to reach and and listen to the indpendent musicians, documentarians, and other 'content producers' that have sadly bought into the propoganda spouted by the RIAA and the MPAA. A recent article in Technology Daily pointed out that the RIAA and others in what I affectionately call “the IP mafia” claim to speak for all musicians or movie makers or others — despite the fact that these same organizations have bilked independents out of fortunes in fair compensation.
Independent “content producers” of all varieties have a stake in the copyright fight, and should speak with their own voices. That means folks who beleive (as I do) that the current copyright scheme is way out of whack need to offer a competing view to that offered by the RIAA. At the same time, it is also incumbent on me and everyone else to actually LISTEN to the concerns of people trying to make a living and not breezily dismiss their worries over their daily bread by telling them to rely on untested business models.
I'm hoping we get a good dialog going in NCMR that will continue long after we all go home on Sunday. In my best of all possible worlds, we will see more and more indepenndent musicians speaking for themselves in the copyright debates rather than letting someone else — whether it is the RIAA or me — speak for them.
See you in Memphis!