Strange Metaphors & Bedfellows (in response to Ammori)

Sad looking siblings with arguing parents behind them

Silicon Valley lawyer and tech-industry activist Marvin Ammori wrote a strange little blog post that appeared a few days ago on Slate in its “Future Tense” section. In an attempt to be cute, Ammori likens some unnamed body of Hollywood “copyright lobbyists” to a stalker ex-boyfriend who won’t take the hint that nobody wants him around anymore.  It’s an obnoxious simile prefacing a set of assertions that are all untrue, but if you’re going to lie, arrogance is usually the best way to sell it.

Several great responses have already been written to Ammori’s post.  AdLandTV and The Trichordist have been quick to point out that Future Tense is not merely the name of new department on the Slate TOC, but is actually a part of the The New America Foundation, possibly funded by the tech industry and certainly chaired by Google’s Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt.  The Trichordist has rightly called Slate’s journalistic integrity into question on this matter, but at least that site also hosts the best response to Ammori — in fact one of the best responses yet written about these issues — from Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter.  It’s a must read, if you haven’t already.  Sutter writes:

“Every writer, producer, actor, musician, director, tech wizard, and fine artist working today needs to be aware of what this all means for our future—we will lose the ability to protect and profit from our own work. Every kid out there who aspires to be an actor or musician or artist: This is your future that’s at stake. More importantly, everyone who enjoys quality entertainment: This impacts you most of all. Content excellence cannot sustain itself if it loses its capacity to reward the talent that creates it.”

I’ll let the matter of whether or not Google & Co. are buying the “news” on a site like Slate play itself out; but I can’t help thinking about Ammori’s dumb dating metaphor and how revealingly wrong-headed it is.  Leaving sexual identity aside, Ammori is right to imply that the other ex that is the internet industry is a lot like the one who signals a “talk to the hand” every time rights holders want to discuss ways — voluntary, legislative, technological, or social — to mitigate rampant and careless devaluation of the creative industries.  But the metaphor here isn’t about a couple who were just dating or had a fling, and now one of them doesn’t know it’s time to move on. The appropriate metaphor, if we’re going to be adults about this, is a couple who were once married and have some kids (let’s call them society); and while there may be some irreconcilable differences, this couple has no choice but to discuss certain matters like reasonable adults if they don’t want to screw up the kids.

So, when the subject of voluntary measures to curb mass copyright infringement is on the table, why is the ex that is Silicon Valley pimping out smug articles like this one, invoking SOPA (and lying about it) and the DMCA (and lying about that), and depicting  the millions of stakeholders in creative rights like they’re just some loser they woke up with one morning and are trying to forget?  Because, for now, it seems Silicon Valley is the ex going through its slutty, bad parent phase.  It wants to screw everybody while it’s still young enough and keep letting the kids do whatever they want — pirate movies, find cheap drugs, create revenge porn, act like trolls, etc. — so it can look like the cool parent while the ex who’s trying to deal with multi-billion-dollar economic reality will sound like an old stick in the mud.  This dysfunction has to end because real people are getting hurt.

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