Towards Sustainable Wolverines

Michael Lynton, Sony Pictures CEO, had an essay at Huffington Post today. He started by describing how a late mix of the big-budget Wolverine project had been stolen from a film lab, then distributed on the Internet for its first four weeks of public viewing.

He described the effects, and this part particularly struck me:

How many people will be as motivated to write a book or a song, or make a movie if they know it is going to be immediately stolen from them and offered to the world with no compensation whatsoever? And how many people whose work is connected with those creative industries — the carpenters, drivers, food service workers, and thousands of others — will lose their jobs as piracy robs their business of resources?

Internet users have become used to getting things when they want it and how they want it, and those of us in the entertainment business want to meet that kind of demand as efficiently and effectively as possible. But what has happened online is that if it is ‘beyond store hours’ and the shop is closed, a lot of people just smash the window and steal what they want. Freedom without restraint is chaos, and if we don’t figure out some way to prevent online chaos, the quantity, quality and availability of the kinds of entertainment, literature, art and scholarship we need to have a healthy, vibrant culture will suffer.

The people who lust after that content disrespected the wishes its creators.

Ugly to say, but a mob abused a minority.

That’s not a smart way to breed more Wolverines.

I don’t particularly like various plans I’ve heard to “control the Internet”. And I personally think current copyright law is often tantamount to establishing a rent-holder class above our shared cultural heritage.

But I do know that “what you subsidize you get more of, what you tax you get less of”. That “tax” of feeling ripped off means fewer creative projects will be judged practical. That will hurt us all.

We’ve got to find new ways to encourage creation and communication… ways desirable for both speaker and listener, sustainable, without undesirable side effects.

Adobe co-founder Charles Geschke described the challenge, in a Wharton interview in summer of 2008:

One of the things I talk a lot about is the necessity to juggle all of the constituencies that have an interest in the business: shareholders, customers, employees, vendors, and the communities in which we operate. Those constituencies are all mildly in conflict with one another in terms of what’s best for them. Your job as a leader in a company is to find an appropriate way to juggle those conflicting interests so everybody feels like they’re getting a fair deal, without letting any one dominate the others because they’ll drag your company down.

We need to find sustainable solutions so that content creators will feel fairly treated… consumers will feel fairly treated… partners will feel fairly treated… and those who invest in Adobe will feel fairly treated.

Simply put, we’ve got to find sustainable ways to breed more Wolverines, and other critters like them…. 😉