In some of the most frightening news I’ve heard in a while, most all of the top-tier (financially, not quality) media players in this country and others held a meeting in China, within earshot of Tianenmen Square. After reading some of the comments coming from the likes of Rupert Murdoch and Tom Curley of the A.P., I was left with a clear image of all of us as the solitary Chinese protester about to be run down by the giant tank with News Corp and the AP at the wheel. Why anyone thought it was a good idea to attend a meeting about the future of media in one of the most oppressive nations on the planet for media controls is beyond me, but it is pretty telling about where these guys are coming from and it should scare the hell out of all of us.
Whereas before, these folks have demonized aggregators, bloggers and search engines as their nemesis, now they’ve expanded the field to include social networking and citizen journalism sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Wikipedia to the rolecall of parasites, thieves and pirates. I’m pretty sure that only leaves about a dozen regular internet users who they don’t consider content kleptos (Murdoch’s term), and that isn’t a very big sample size to base a business model on.
Curley had some particularly clear things to say on the subject of locking down content and compelling people to pay for something they’ve never really paid for, either online or in print. To this end, he introduced the AP’s News Registry, which is intended to track AP content and essentially police its uses. They’re calling the effort AP3P (and no, it isn’t actually R2D2’s slower cousin) which stands for Protect, Point and Pay. No sense beating around the bush there, I suppose. After reading up on the plan, it sounds to me more like Control, Restrict and Extort, but AP CRE isn’t as cool an acronym, I guess. And the most interesting part is how insistent Curley is that the AP won’t license anything to anyone that doesn’t agree with the 3P’s. My way or the highway, as it were. Not exactly the ideal of an inclusive, community oriented internet.
Murdoch’s words were even more severe, throwing out terms like plagirists, kleptomaniacs, flat-earthers and others to describe the people and activities that you and I and everyone, including his own reporters, engage in on the internet every day. He came across more as a general marshalling his troops for conflict than a newspaperman. And that’s the lesson to take away from all this. News Corp and the AP have drawn the battle lines against the internet and free, public discourse. And by free, I don’t mean that all content is and should be free, but that all people should be allowed to discuss it, quote from it, reference it and link to it. That’s what the internet has allowed to happen in ways that were unprecedented when guys like these media titans controlled what we read and saw and what made its way into print.
The words of war were thrown about by these guys. “They will pay the price; we will no longer tolerate; we must act quickly and decisively.” All we’re missing here is shock and awe and the AP article on the first saturation bombing of the Huffington Post. Of course, no one would be able to read it or know about it because it’ll locked behind a hard pay wall and you won’t be able to link to it without the AP’s content police beating down your firewall.
In the past, I’ve expressed a rather large concern and belief that we are heading for an inevitable legal struggle here for the future of journalism, and communication as well. The day is most definitely coming. A meeting of the minds, as it were, in Communist China detailing plans for the future control of media on the internet is a harbinger of some very bad things on the horizon. We should be preemptive and start to cut out these barons now. Stop linking to AP stories, stop referencing stuff that appears in the New York Times. We need to start building legitimate alternatives to what these guys produce, otherwise, they’ll coerce, compel and criminalize all of us into paying for stuff that we don’t really want. They pretty clearly aren’t interested in being a part of what we are all trying to do out here, preferring to cloister themselves and their precious articles away behind an ivory paywall. We need to inform Mr. Curley and Mr. Murdoch that we’ll be the ones to decide who we cooperate with and who we won’t. And we’re not going to be bullied or extorted into compliance, no matter how strong your rhetoric.
For anyone interested, here’s a more thorough break down of both speeches. You all should read up and get a pretty good view on what the future of media will look like if these guys have their way. It’s not pretty.