I remember someone telling me a story about the delivery of the first copy of MS DOS to Japan. (I don't know if this story is true, but it's a good story.) The shipment contained a copy of DOS on paper tape and a blank roll of tape. They taxed just the blank one because the one with DOS on it was "used".

So... Does this make Amazon.com a "used comment salesman" and Six Apart a seller of "new comment space"?

I'm of course mostly joking, but I think this represents two completely different views on the "media" business. You can sell the blank media or "used media". Either the comments are the product or the ability to create comments is the product. This is what separates the professional world from the amateur world... But good amateur can exceed crappy professional in quality. Production and distribution are becoming lower cost, and two opposed views of the world are colliding harder. Clearly, clever people have managed to arbitrage/manage both of these models, but they surely produce very different types of laws, processes and world-views.

3 Comments

Seeing how DOS stands for 'disk operating system' it seems unlikely that it would have been delivered on tape, paper or otherwise. Could have been an earlier version!

It is a big issue though that doesn't cover sampling-type efforts - how do you tax movements of intellectual property and effort - ? Or do you try to tax them at all?

There is also an issue of where the value comes from in something like amazon. It isn't from the content management system alone, or from the comments alone. It's some mix of the two, and you need both.

Interesting viewpoint, and very true: a good amateur can be better than a crappy professional any day—whether it’s in medicine and law or publishing. As to laws, perhaps it is a question of access, one that is disappearing?
   Let’s consider publishing. In the old economy, you had to be a large concern, to have a legal department which could fight for your copyright. The amateur might not know where to go if copyright was violated. The actual copyright law remains the same.
   In 2005, and beyond, there is enough free advice out there and pages on the web to get around this difficulty. The amateur could Google the advice (s)he needs. In media itself, I think we’ll start seeing more ‘collisions’, as you put it: the credibility of a good business blogger may far exceed that of, say, a McKinsey Quarterly. The ability to create (or having a vessel for) comments and the comments themselves will become ever closer in terms of how they can be protected. A lot, I imagine, will rest on the shoulders of good branding—something else that the web seems to be taking care of as good graphic design becomes far more accessible, too.

Antoin, could the tape have been a master tape from which reproductions were made on to floppy disk?

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