Computers have been identified as idiot savants, fragile in their logical omnipotence while being oblivious to, let alone able to respond to any simple social cues. Yet computers like the Borgs of Star Wars continue to assimilate, absorb and alter greater swaths of human and social life. Ostensibly computers act as aids or economic agents of change but in the process present Society with ever more challenging problems of Coping with that Change. This is one of the drivers of Faster – an prescient book by James Gleick
Here is a facet of Computing, Fast CopyCats, that is currently plaguing the economic and social scene. Fast CopyCats is built on three computing phenomena:
1)The ever diminishing cost and yet fast growing capability of computer storage. Now outpacing Moores Law for computing power – roughly a quadrupling in storage capacity for the same price every 18-20 months.
2)The continued movement from analog to digital processing for all media – writing and type, audio, video, still images, etc. Kodak well knows the change from film to digital images. TV sales have taken a new oomph from HD-High Definition enabled digital TV signals, etc, etc.
3)The ever increasing bandwidth being brought to market for Internet communication. This has been achieving Moores Law improvements but in a more bumpy evolution.
The result is computers as Fast CopyCats.
There are very, very few publications, writings, books, songs, musics, stories, or films that are not stored and available in various ways on computer. eBooks, .DOC and PDF for books and just about any writing. MP3, WAV, and iTunes for just about any music or song. MP4, QTM, or WMV for films and movies.
And those copies can be moved by DVD, CD or BitTorrent file sharing among others anywhere in the world for minimal cost and great convenience to the recipients. The problem – the old forms such as books, music cassettes, and videos allowed the creators to be paid (sometimes extremely handsomely) for their works of art, entertainment or knowledge. Now the creator is being taken out of the pay equation as Google, Youtube, MySpace, Faceoff and others prosper by making the files and media available for free but for the price of being exposed to their advertisers pitches.
The Pinch on Creators
This writer knows that idea creators are getting shorter shrift as others take advantage of Fast Copycats. Newspapers, magazines, and the trade press I used to write for are fast dwindling in size and employment opportunities. I see it myself. My stories and reviews on my websites are copied and distributed without my permission – and I am effectively powerless to stop it. Why ban an IP address after the whole website has been stolen …. uhhh borrowed for a good cause in one session. The “borrowers” will just find another IP to “borrow” again and have done so(thanks my Southeast Asian “friends” you now have eliminated my need to contribute to UNICEF or CARE).
And the “borrowers” will just say they cant pay other than the compliment of regularly returning to my site and “borrowing” again. Do they click on my ads, participate in my polls or add comments and contributions to the site when requested ? Not at all.
And this is the problem faced by millions of other bloggers and informational web site owners and developers. How to get a return on their investment in time and energy and thought. Site owners have to go well past the Google Adsense model. It often requires the site owner to present users with other ways to pay for the services they get free on a website. The New York Times has Select content. Marketwatch.com has seminars and special investment services linked to by relevant free stories and articles. Others sites like the IT trade press have shows, presentations, and special events based on free articles. Some even sell books, CDs and/or films about their expertise as demonstrated in free articles and services.
For the creative community the problem is eerily the same. With copying and filesharing – music, books, and films are easily “borrowed” with hundreds if not thousands of users getting free or for minimal-cost copies for the one legitimately paid for. The creators one defense – making the price of admission/purchase low enough so the risks and costs of illegally copying are avoided. This appears to be one solution as in the case of iTunes and iStockPhoto with music and creative image downloads. Also making the convenience of choosing and receiving as in the case of NetFlix and others may be another viable strategy. Finally doing it “live” as in concerts and shows present another alternative.
But the essential conundrum faced by writers, artists, filmakers and creators in general is that the way they work and get compensated has been changed forever by Fast CopyCats.
PS: This review is inspired by the fact that www.infoworld.com will no longer publish a printed copy and will restrict itself to a webite edition only.