T-Bone Burnett and I ventured into the academic lion’s den at MIT on Saturday and had a remarkably civil conversation about piracy, IP, fair use and other touchy subjects. Much of the thanks have to go to my colleague Henry Jenkins the founder of the Futures of Entertainment Conference, who both guided the conversation and provided a constant reminder that in a participatory culture notions of fair use are critical to enhancing creativity. Bone and I made the argument that the main problem that can be solved without legislation is for brands and advertising networks to stop sending millions of dollars of advertising to pirate sites run by organized criminals like Kim Dotcom. This of course put both the Google folks in the audience at FOE 6 as well as some of the branding agencies, in a defensive crouch, accusing us of whining. Questions were posed as to why Google would be interested in helping the music or movie industry at the sacrifice of profits to their own bottom line.
Henry Jenkins’ notion is that there is no reason for technology, content and academia to be in conflict over these issues. We were able to talk both passionately about the right of artists to get paid for their work and the right of the participatory culture to take sections of an artistic work and remix it for non-commercial use. This is real progress and my hope is that the bombast surrounding this issue is slowly surrendering to a more civil conversation that can resolve this important issue. I also want to thank our correspondent Len Bullard for his contribution to the conversation. He played the role of our trainer before the debate brilliantly.