Copyright Law, Web Analytics, and Labour Policy
Frequent readers of my work emails know that I’m inspired by somebody.
Thelen (2004) in “How Institutions Evolve” argues a strong form of what public policy theorists call “lock in”.
It made me realize just how easy it is for a single politician to set a country on a path towards greatness, or towards demise. For instance, Chretien’s decision to turn towards a hyper-university and research policy in 1996, and the pursuit of the Millennium Scholarship Grants to ensure accessibility to the lower quintiles, has already had a resounding success for Canada. And it’s only 2008.
I’m especially sensitive to labour policy because it’s such a critical ingredient in the success of a nation. On this point, I take the medium to long run views. Nobody in Canada will really give Chretien credit for the triumphs of Canadians in the Interactive Industry – but there it is. The effects of a labour policy decision, as Thelen proves, sometimes take decades to fully manifest themselves. Germany and Japan embarked on fairly intense labor policy decisions at critical times, and their economies boomed. Britain and the USA embarked on different directions (albeit, for different reasons) and were run out of certain industries.
Most politicians don’t take such long views of things.
Let’s turn to the Conservatives mishandling of copyright laws. The following views, as always, represent the views of this author and not of my peers.
There was a time, a long time ago, when the live performers and the sheet music associations of America embarked on a litigious quest to shut down the phonograph industry. They argued that the phonograph was completely destroying their revenue models, and that the salaries of live performers were collapsing. They also argued that it was a question of intellectual property protection.
New technologies are inherently disruptive.
They create losers. They create winners. The losers lose big. The winners win bigger. Everybody in society wins biggest.
What if Congress had taken steps to shelter the sheet music associations? What if they had embarked on a policy of punishing phonograph owners? Well, America would not have been the first to commercialize Radio. Or TV subsequently. Or YouTube consequently.
Who would have?
Well, probably the country that was all ‘free market’ about the situation. Sure, it would have taken Canada longer, but recall that Radio and TV were socialized in Canada by the Government in a direct attempt to hold the country together culturally. Canada, given its history of innovation around ‘wireless’ and embarking on really crazy schemes to fight ‘geography’ would have been able to leapfrog over America in many respects. Australia is another strong candidate.
But think more about the consequences for workers had the Sheet Writers been protected from the new business model.
What about all that on-the-job training around commercial production of phonographs? What about all the experience around producing content on records? (Recall that records were a major medium back in the day…preachers used it as a major medium before the invention of radio.) What about all the engineering jobs that came out of it?
What about all the early American experimentations with propaganda?
This is really quite vital – physical technologies, when they’re allowed to flourish and be disruptive, enable a whole host of social technologies.
Jim Prentice, by engaging in what is essentially market protectionism of a dying medium, is endangering a host of future Canadian jobs.
Business models based around Podcasting aren’t just fiction, they’re real. We make money off of podcasting.
What effect will Prentice’s actions have on the broader Podcasting industry? Quite a lot, in my view. In fact, when it comes to mobile devices getting locked down by Canada’s major carriers, there are an entire host of developer issues as well.
Already, Canadian interactive developers are at a competitive disadvantage with those in America, Japan, China, Somalia and Puntland (!!!) because Canadian mobile policy has been so protectionist of the incumbent players. Mobile policy, which is directly linked with copyright policy, impacts labour policy.
And at what cost?
What’s bad for mobile interactive developers, podcasting, and mobile devices more generally is bad for web analytics as well. Web Analytics depends on emerging mediums to measure. If those mediums migrate to other countries, we’ll lose our competitive advantage and wither.
The copyright law is designed so that the old interests maintain control over the old ways that people consumed media. It’s not ‘theft’ when all you download are garage bands. It will be considered ‘theft’ though when a police officer, without a warrant, seizes your iPOD and puts the burden of proof on you to prove that you have the DRM for it.
There’s no ‘balance’ here between a dying husk of an industry that has lost touch with its customers, and a public that increasingly doesn’t have ‘popular’ tastes in music. There’s no ‘balance’ here between the needs of a growing interactive industry class. There’s no ‘balance’ here between the best long term interests of a country who’s future depends on the adaptation to a mobile, interactive world, and a industry that wants to drag us back.
It’s time to assert the greater interests of Canadians over the narrow interests of a few.