Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Best Buy a New (Copyfighters) Best Friend 

Here’s a news item that caught my eye: a great op Ed in the Vancouver Sun by the electronics retailer Best Buy. Not my favorite shop, necessarily, but every time I go there they manage to upsell me and I end up going home with some great stuff. This piece really helps to point out that at least as many businesses are on the side of “less copyright” as are on the side of drastically increasing copyright controls.

Why does Best Buy care about copyright law? I think that electronics manufacturers and retailers realize that a lot of their value comes from the power their products give their customers -- they're always trying to sell more powerful computers, with more storage, and bigger screens to watch all that copied media. As many others have pointed out, no consumer ever woke up in the morning and wished that it would be more difficult and more expensive for them to watch a TV show on their computer!

Opposing that vision of an open system with computers around the world busy doing what they do best -copying data- are the movie and music companies, who are advocating that we let them lock everything down and basically screw up our computers and the Internet so they can make a buck.

One of the reasons I work on the Wireless Nomad project is that I think that the open system is the better one -- it creates more value, fosters innovation, and reinforces our democratic ideals. Big Internet providers seem to be increasingly getting involved with content companies, and see the potential of using their privileged position in between users and media companies to squeeze some money out of both.

There is a lot of hope that even a little competition in the Internet market will help keep Big Telecom and Big Content in check. That's a Big Task, but as the Best Buy op-ed shows, people supporting the open system model might have a lot more powerful friends than they once thought.

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