Largeness as such is not bad. Freedom is not threatened just because some become very rich, or because there are only a handful of big players. The poor quality of Big Macs or Quarter Pounders does not mean that you can’t get a good hamburger from somewhere else.
The danger in media concentration comes not from the concentration, but instead from the feudalism that this concentration, tied to the change in copyright, produces. It is not just that there are a few powerful companies that control an ever expanding slice of the media. It is that this concentration can call upon an equally bloated range of rights— property rights of a historically extreme form—that makes their bigness bad.
It is therefore significant that so many would rally to demand competition and increased diversity. Still, if the rally is understood as being about bigness alone, it is not terribly surprising. We Americans have a long history of fighting “big,” wisely or not. That we could be motivated to fight “big” again is not something new.
It would be something new, and something very important, if an equal number could be rallied to fight the increasing extremism built within the idea of “intellectual property.” Not because balance is alien to our tradition; indeed, as I’ve argued, balance is our tradition. But because the muscle to think critically about the scope of anything called “property” is not well exercised within this tradition anymore.
If we were Achilles, this would be our heel. This would be the place of our tragedy.
As I write these final words, the news is filled with stories about the RIAA lawsuits against almost three hundred individuals. Eminem has just been sued for “sampling” someone else’s music. The story about Bob Dylan “stealing” from a Japanese author has just finished making the rounds. An insider from Hollywood—who insists he must remain anonymous—reports “an amazing conversation with these studio guys. They’ve got extraordinary [old] content that they’d love to use but can’t because they can’t begin to clear the rights. They’ve got scores of kids who could do amazing things with the content, but it would take scores of lawyers to clean it first.” Congressmen are talking about deputizing computer viruses to bring down computers thought to violate the law. Universities are threatening expulsion for kids who use a computer to share content.
~ Lawrence Lessig, Free Culture