The other big news this past week besides SOPA was MegaUpload.com’s MegaUpload Song on YouTube:
Universal Music Group (UMG) had a conniption fit, because some of their signed artists provided testimonials for MegaUpload, a file sharing site that makes it easy to share files with others.
Despite MegaUpload having every right to use the testimonials in their music video advertisement, UMG used a tool provided by YouTube/Google for big media to easily remove copyright infringing content to nuke the MegaUpload Mega Song. However, UMG had no right to do this, which made it a violation of the DMCA and worth $150,000 in favor of MegaUpload.
According to Wired.com’s Threat Level Blog here, UMG admits that they used Google’s filtering system, but they claim that their use of it does not violate the DMCA. Essentially, they ADMIT that they were fucking with MegaUpload!
Now, if SOPA were to go into effect and entire domain names were wiped from the Internet and all of the sites hosted on those domains, I can see in my crystal ball that many more episodes like the one taking place between UMG and MegaUpload will take place. The collateral damage will be those of us who use the Internet on a daily basis for our work and enjoyment.
I don’t want corporations to have more power over what I do online especially when they don’t own what I do or the work of others. They don’t own the infrastructure that they will be given so much control over.
What does this sound like to you? To me, it sounds like theft. Big media is so twisted over its defeats over its iron grip over culture that it now wants to steal back that control through legislation aimed at the people’s culture. We, the people, cannot stand for this kind of dickery. Big media corporations are not above human failings, and as UMG has demonstrated, they will use any means necessary including hijacking democracy and insider agreements to control our culture.
I was surprised yesterday to see a two-fold increase in my daily site traffic, but I quickly found the culprit for this additional traffic: Jules Verne’s birthday. In 2009, I posted a call for papers for the annual Jules Verne Society meeting here. That post received many hits from search engine result pages even though I haven’t really written about Jules Verne on the site besides that post. That post was ranked on some of the major search engines, which drove a little extra traffic my way. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any party favors to give out or more substantial Verne articles for my visitors to read. I will have to think of something significant to write about Verne before his birthday next year.
Today’s New York Times has an interesting article by Steve Lohr about Apple’s ability to shift its business strategy while being a tech giant. According to Michael A. Cusumano of MIT, “Apple has hit that magical combination of gradually shifting from a product to a platform strategy” (qtd. in Lohr par. 6). There are of course challenges to Apple’s approach from Google. Read the full article here: At Apple, the Platform Is the Engine of Growth – NYTimes.com.
Apparently, Motorola, Google, and Verizon have teamed up to produce the Star Wars Empire Strikes Back Special Edition Phone. You can learn about it at the official site here (if you follow @droidlanding on Twitter), or see a picture of the phone here (it looks like a flat, rectangular R2-D2).
That’s cute and all, but I’ve been R2′s buddy since the first generation iPhone:
In all honesty, I’ve been thinking a lot about Star Wars merchandising lately. I’m troubled by it, by my participation in it (yes, I just mailed off my five UPCs for the vintage, rocket firing Boba Fett), and its lasting effect on life to the present (collecting, playing, maintaining interest in movie tie-in toys). I am going to write more on this in the future, but I want to scan some old Christmas and Birthday photos first, so that I can use them in my essay.
For the time being, consider Star Wars and ESB Producer Gary Kurtz’s interview here, in which he says: “The emphasis on the toys, it’s like the cart driving the horse. . . . If it wasn’t for that the films would be done for their own merits. The creative team wouldn’t be looking over their shoulder all the time.” Now, I’m off to Wal-Mart to see if they have any of the new vintage Star Wars action figures in stock.
Neil Easterbrook recently sent an email to the SFRA listserve regarding The Atlantic article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” by Nicholas Carr, which is available here. Neil was using this article as a prompt for his inquiry for SF works that address the neurology of reading and how the act of reading changes the way people think. I suggested Richard Powers’ Galatea 2.2 as a possible text, because the AI, Helen, evolves over time as she learns the literary canon from the fictional “Richard Powers.”
I argree with Carr that Google and the Internet are changing the way we think. As are cell phones and other digital necessities such as the iPod. What I’m concern about is how something like Google can be employed to shape the way we think. This is an idea that comes from thinking about Chomsky’s work on the self-censorship in the media, because of such effects as the increasing usage of government press releases in place of real reporting (which costs money and cuts into the bottom line). In the case of Google, companies can sponsor links so that they appear higher in search results. Also, as Carr’s article states, Google eventually wants to give users of its service just what they’re looking for. Combining these two things together may not be exactly what a user is looking for, but an approximation based on the shaping of results toward capitalistic ends. I fear the future won’t be about a Google AI supplanting our way of thinking, but rather about the buying and selling of our way of thinking. I believe that capitalism already shapes our thinking, our consciousness, but in the Google model, where users don’t pay for services, but are given a service in exchange for the implicit agreement that advertising in some way pays for their access to Google’s services, users can’t pay to opt out of this new form of consciousness shaping. They don’t want users to engage in the system in this way, because the system’s thought shaping serves corporate interests, including their own, which are diametrically opposed and mutually exclusive with an empowered user/individual/consumer.