Jessica Litman: Commercial media found the Internet frightening, and with good reason.

Commercial media found the Internet frightening, and with good reason.
Entertainment and information merchants tend to express that fear as a fear of
massive piracy, but piracy turns out to be not so hard a nut to crack. Piracy over
digital networks leaves incriminating electron trails; you can track it down and
avenge it. Increasingly, moreover, there are tools to prevent it. A variety of
technological locks, booby-traps and other devices have been deployed that
make unauthorized use difficult for the huge majority of users, few of whom are
dedicated hackers. The really scary thing was not, I think, piracy, but
obsolescence. In the long term, other media might grow up and eclipse the
current market leaders, just as player pianos yielded to radios in the 1920s, and
movies superseded live theatre in the 1930s and 1940s.33 Even in the short
term, the Internet posed a threat, because it facilitated an enormous amount of
free speech that could divert potential consumers from the speech they had to
pay for.

When I speak of free speech, I mean speech that doesn’t cost any money. (as opposed to freedom of speech or freedom of the press)
To distill it down to the simplest formulation: Free speech may drive out speech that people have to pay for.

If, you happen to be in the business of selling speech, a glut
of free stuff (especially high quality free stuff ) has the potential to run you out
of business.

If you are a publicly-traded company that employs a bunch of
people, pays your taxes, gives back to your community, and makes campaign
contributions to your elected representatives, then it’s easy to persuade
policymakers that your financial health is important to the general welfare, and
anything that threatens to drive you out of business is a threat to the public

  • Jessica Litman