Sony CEO Says He Does So Get The Internet
Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton fired back at critics roused by his statement that nothing good has come from the Internet with a lengthy column published on the Huffington Post. For all the backpedaling in the piece, Lynton’s defense remains peppered with exaggeration, slippery slopes, and heavy-handed rhetoric, and still concludes the Internet is a major threat to every kind of content creator.
Lynton’s piece is remarkable also for what it doesn’t have: the credibility the entertainment industry and Big Content as a whole has lost. No reasonable person would support or condone piracy, which is the issue at the heart of Lynton’s argument. Stealing is wrong, we all can agree.
With the same amount of reason, though, a person can think the invasiveness, extremism, and disproportionate influence the industry prefers and wields is also wrong, and it is its vested interest that robs the industry of its credibility.
At the heart of it, the industry is propping itself up on the piracy issue and pressuring open-pocketed politicians to achieve ends counter to their own customer base’s ideals. People care less about the pittance a few pirates cost the industry and more about how much their government will allow itself and its constituents to be bullied and scared into submission to the will of the industry.
Here’s what the people don’t want and should vehemently fight: ISPs sniffing their packets on behalf of government or the entertainment industry to root out a few lawbreakers by violating the whole’s right to privacy; ISPs and entertainment companies deciding based on their own interests what websites and content subscribers have access to; content companies, or any industry or government entity (industry and government are one and the same anymore) squashing fair use and freedom of speech because of copyright law abuse or to quash dissent; copyright lawyers wreaking financial ruin on minor offenders (their parents and grandparents) via litigation over a few dollars worth of pirated content; entertainment industry lawyers snaking their way into the DOJ, Congress, and now the Supreme Court (Sotomayor’s private practice life was as an intellectual property lawyer).
If letting a few pirates, or a bunch of teenagers, beat the system prevents all of that, well then who, other than the entertainment industry and Big Content, cares? Lynton is wrong when he says there are no guidelines in place or rules of the road regarding copyright. There are plenty of them, and violation carries stiff, stiff penalties. Sony, and the entertainment industry as well, are not the victims they’re making themselves out to be.
Lynton opens with the story of how X-Men Origins: Wolverine was leaked onto the Internet a month in advance and was illegally downloaded four million times. First, it sounds like a big internal problem that the movie was leaked in the first place. Second, Wolverine made $87 million at the box office despite that. Everybody still gets rich. Tell me again who suffered? One might argue that was great free promotion.
Lynton would say all artists, writers, actors, musicians, all content creators suffered. One might also say they already suffer by making a fraction of the money their art has made for these companies. Maybe the Internet, via new self-publishing and self-marketing venues, makes it easier for them to get their fair share? Yeah, that would be a problem for the industry, wouldn’t it?
This argument could go on and on, and I could do a bullet-point-style rebuttal of Lynton’s comments, which are designed to get Sony ahead and nobody else. As a writer (yeah, in case you wondered, I’m working on a novel—and I think it’s really stinkin’ good), I know I’ve got copyright law on my side to protect my work. When Sony buys the movie rights (see, I’m an optimist), I may even let them screw me over to further my career. Whatever happens, we’ll both need to evolve, but neither of us needs stronger copyright laws. The copyright laws are already stacked in our favor.