Darknet: Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation Hardcover – May 1 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Rapid-fire advances in technology have transformed home entertainment. Not only can we store hours of television programming and music on hard drives, software has made it easy to create our own movies and songs, splicing and sampling professional-grade material into amateur productions. Entertainment conglomerates are understandably concerned, but in online journalist Lasica's reporting on the culture clash over digital distribution and remixing, corporations are simplistically portrayed as dinosaurs intent on stifling the little guy's creative freedom in order to protect their profit margins. The characterization is not entirely unmerited, but the deck feels unfairly stacked when "Big Entertainment" honchos are juxtaposed with a preacher who illegally copies and downloads movies so he can use short clips for his sermons. Similarly, Lasica infuses the allegedly inevitable triumph of "participatory culture" with a sense of entitlement and anti-corporate bias that he never fully addresses. Lasica's interviews are far-ranging, and he provides a cogent analysis of the broad problems with America's outdated legal framework for dealing with intellectual property rights and the need for the entertainment industry to adapt to new technologies. Too often, though, he falls back to an alarmist tone. With so many other works addressing this issue from both sides, it will be hard for Lasica's book to stand out from the pack. (May 13)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
When the music-recording industry took a hard-line legal stance against file sharers, it alienated its customer base and hurt its own sales. A similar battle is brewing in the movie industry, as faster Internet speeds and video compression are making it easier to download entire movies over the Net for free. Lasica, a top online journalist, takes us into the Internet movie underground, where an elite club of pirates known as "rippers" and "crackers" secretly obtain copies of movies and release them in cyberspace. At the other extreme are the Hollywood studios, which are treating ordinary users like thieves, placing such shackles on digital media that we can't legally make a backup copy of a DVD we own and soon restricting the copying and sharing of high-definition TV. Contrast this with the freedoms that computers give us to remix, copy, and paste video and to author DVDs, and you have a scenario where ordinary producers of creative art become felons. Lasica takes the middle view that while copyrights need to be protected, the continual erosion of fair-use rights needs to be addressed. David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
That's because he takes to the virtual "streets" of the new landscape and, like a good old-fashioned shoe-leather reporter, tracks down and talks to the people who are either changing the creative world or pushing back against those changes. Because of that, we get a more personal and more quickly understandable look at the issues, potentials and pitfalls than we do in more scholarly works.
Coming into the book, I was familiar with many (but not nearly all) of the "stories" in at least broadbush outline from reading blogs written by J.D. and dozens of others. But in Darknet, J.D. isn't merely re-mining old ground. The arc of the narrative, the depth of research and his engaging writing style make it all fresh, and tie together all of the strands that make up the story of, in the words of the subtitle, Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation.
I'd bet that Darknet (like Lawrence Lessing's Free Culture) is going to emerge as one of the touchstone documents in the badly-needed discussion over balancing creator rights and civic needs, and in the debate about what needs to happen to nurture the new, fast-growing creative culture instead of driving it farther and farther into the Darknet.
As they say in blog world: go read. Even if you're intimately familiar with the issues of the "war" and the potential for creativity that has been unleashed, you'll enjoy it. And if any of this is new to you, you'll come away enthralled over the potential and scared and angry about the efforts of a handful of industries to control it.
Hollywood wants to stop inventions like TiVo but yet own it themselves. Don't even get me started about the RIAA suing young kids and the elderly. Just remember, files on the internet are intangeble objects. Long live the CopyLeft! (no, that's not a political term)
I'd strongly recommend it to anyone who is trying to make sense of what's happening in the media industry and society at large. Big changes are afoot and Lasica does a suberb job of mapping the new landscape and anticipating where things are headed.
It's very difficult for example to discuss this subject dispassionately. Another reviewer notes that he is "struck by the unarguable fact that the lower-starred reviews actually review the book". I'm afraid this seems perfectly arguable. I would point you towards the review by user "John Q. Public" for example.
Personally I was well-disposed towards this book before picking it up (yes, that's to say I was biased :) ), in that I always find it useful to be reminded that before modern notions of copyright artists of all kinds had no problem expressing themselves, a minority of them (as today) earning a living, and a minority (as today) acquiring fame. Unless I have misunderstood this point a reviewer writes that "without artists, and their historic legal rights, "Hollywood" and Big Media would not exist". I thought that was the point the author was trying to make. Industry ideas of Fair Use, DRM, copyright, control over the internet, all help (so-called) "Big Media" not artists. I gave the book 4 stars as I happen to believe (did I mention I was biased) that a "read-only" internet will affect people more than they think, and this book makes me think.
One gripe I have is the title. The author downplays the glamour of it all; "darknets" (wow) implying perhaps subversion, counterculture etc. But I suspect that's in fact a selling point of the book. And that's a bit misleading. When I read a hard copy book, I do so anonymously, there is no DRM, when I lend that book to a friend, that also happens anonymously. This is a real-world "darknet". But it's just everyday life.
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