Motion Picture Association President Dan Glickman locks horns with Electronic Frontier Foundation's John Perry Barlow over big media's war with the internet.
By Adam Livingstone and Richard Taylor
The biggest pirate movie site on the Internet was raided by police a few days ago. Within 48 hours it was up and running in a different country. It's just another week on the barricades of the information revolution.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation campaigns for 'digital freedoms'
Over and again we at geek central find ourselves reading about the latest skirmish between the copyright cops and the darknet without ever hearing that there might be a war going on.
The hackers want to break Hollywood on the wheel of their collective ingenuity and show the suits who is in charge.
Big media wants to make money from the internet like it does with every other outlet, or at the very least not have piracy forever draining away their profits.
And they have been hammering away at each other for years now.
But could there ever be peace between these two warring tribes? Have they got anything to teach one another, or will they spend yet another decade 'not getting' each other's point of view?
Newsnight decided to track down the two most powerful voices on either side of the divide and ask them about their own philosophies and what they thought of their opponent.
Copying and sharing films has never been easier
John Perry Barlow used to be the lyricist in the US supergroup 'The Grateful Dead.' He went on to co-found the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the pressure group that's placed itself front and centre in the fight to keep the tanks of government and corporation off the lawns of cyberspace.
Congressman Dan Glickman became US Secretary for Agriculture under Bill Clinton. Nowadays he's the President and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, the body that wields the collective political and legal muscle of the Hollywood studios.
Here's an edited highlight of what they have to say about one another:
John Perry Barlow: The entertainment industry is as it always has been. It's a rough bunch of people and a rough industry. I don't think that the movie industry is any more ready than any other part of the information industries to adapt itself to the information age. But it's going to go there one way or the other.
And whatever its cries of protest and growing pains, it'll make it eventually - it's just going to do everything it can, as the record industry has done, as the publishing industry has done, to stop progress in that direction until it gets its act together.
And I fear that it's done grave harm to itself and to the future in the process of trying to slow down progress, but it'll go there inevitably.
Dan Glickman: John Perry Barlow is the one who's doing a disservice to the consumers, because you see if you don't adequately compensate the artist, the director, the creator, the actor, they won't do it in the first place so people won't get movies.
So, yeah, we should be protecting our copyright but it doesn't mean that we shouldn't be looking for new ways to get that content to people in modern ways - particularly young people who [understand] computers and electronic equipment and the internet very well.
JPB: These are aging industries run by aging men, and they're up against 17-year-olds who have turned themselves into electronic Hezbollah because they resent the content industry for its proprietary practices. And I don't have a question about who's going to win that one eventually.
Barlow believes the studios will ultimately lose the digital battle
There are a lot of kids out there copying and distributing movies not because they care about seeing the movies or sharing them with their friends but because they want to stick it to the movie business.
It's widely assumed that you can't compete with free and that seems like a reasonable thing to think. But this has not been my experience. I mean I've made a fair amount of money over the years writing songs for 'The Grateful Dead' who allowed their fans to tape their concerts.
We were at one point the biggest grossing performing act in the United States, and most of our records went platinum sooner or later.
It's an economic model that has worked in my experience and I think it does work. It's just that it seems like it wouldn't. It seems counter-intuitive.
DG: It is ridiculous to believe that you can give product away for free and be more successful. I mean it defies the laws of nature.
Would a clothing store give all their clothes for free? Would a car dealership give all its cars for free? Of course not. If they don't make a profit in this world they're out of business. That's just the laws of human nature.
JPB: If I were to encounter Dan Glickman on the street and we were to have a civilised conversation about this subject, which would be a long shot, I'd tell him to relax.
I'd tell him to spend less of the resources of his industry on fighting the inevitable and more on learning about the conditions that they find themselves in and recognising the opportunities, which I think are vast and very encouraging. But they can't get to those opportunities until they quit trying to stop progress.
DG: First of all I'd tell John Perry Barlow that I'm very relaxed and if we met each other we'd probably have a very good time. But all of us kind of need to chill out.
Dan Glickman says if consumers do not pay the product will not exist
The fact of the matter is that people who create content for movies and television have to make a profit. If they don't you won't see all this wonderful stuff and listen to it.
But he is right to the extent that we need to be finding new and different ways to get our content to people, whether it's internet or whether it's iPod or whether it's remotely accessed in various parts of the world. If [we] don't the consumer will not be satisfied and in this business the consumer is king and queen. If you don't make them happy they won't buy your product.
JPB: I've got good news and bad news and good news. And the good news is that you guys have managed to buy every major legislative body on the planet, and the courts are even with you. So you've done a great job there and you should congratulate yourself.
But you know the problem is - the bad news is that you're up against a dedicated foe that is younger and smarter that you are and will be alive when you're dead. You're 55 years old and these kids are 17 and they're just smarter than you. So you're gonna lose that one.
But the good news is that you guys are mean sons of bitches and you've been figuring out ways of ripping off audiences and artists for centuries.....
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