Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

edemo
It's $100 to register and you can register even if you're not attending ETech. I'll be doing a session with Ethan Zuckerman on International stuff.

Emergent Democracy Worldwide
Joichi Ito, Founder and CEO, Neoteny
Ethan Zuckerman, Founder, Geekcorps
Time: 3:30pm - 4:15pm
Location: California Ballroom C

While we're building great new tools to build communities, we've done very little to ensure that people around the world have access to them. And even when we've made it possible for people in developing nations to speak, we've done little to ensure that anyone listens. How do we ensure that the "Second Superpower" Jim Moore proposes includes the poor as well as the rich? When a new democratic structure emerges from highly-wired westerners, how do we ensure it's fair and just for those currently unwired? The answer is more complex than bridging the so-called "digital divide" - it involves bridging countless cultural divides. Emerging technologies make it easier than ever to bring first-person perspectives, as well as images, movies and music to people in other nations - is this enough to bring cultures together and ensure they care about one another?

The New York Times Upfront asked me to contribute a short piece to a point/counterpoint they were having on download. (I would defend downloading, of course.) I thought I managed to write a pretty good piece, especially for its size and audience, in a couple days. But then I found out my piece was cut because the Times had decided not to tell kids to break the law. So, from the graveyard, here it is.

Stealing is wrong. But downloading isn’t stealing. If I shoplift an album from my local record store, no one else can buy it. But when I download a song, no one loses it and another person gets it. There’s no ethical problem.

Music companies blame a fifteen percent drop in sales since 2000 on downloading. But over the same period, there was a recession, a price hike, a 25% cut in new releases, and a lack of popular new artists. Factoring all that in, maybe downloading increases sales. And 90% of the catalog of the major labels isn’t for sale anymore. The Internet is the only way to hear this music.

Even if downloading did hurt sales, that doesn’t make it unethical. Libraries and video stores (neither of which pay per rental) hurt sales too. Is it unethical to use them?

Downloading may be illegal. But 60 million people used Napster and only 50 million voted for Bush or Gore. We live in a democracy. If the people want to share files then the law should be changed to let them.

And there’s a fair way to change it. A Harvard professor found that a $60/yr. charge for broadband users would make up for all lost revenues. The government would give it to the affected artists and, in return, make downloading legal, sparking easier-to-use systems and more shared music. The artists get more money and you get more music. What’s unethical about that?

Footnotes and lots of comments on Aaron's site.

Ecto, the OS X blogging client by Adriaan (disclosure: Adriaan works for me) is out for beta testing. Check it out.

Tim Oren cites a poll by the Washington Post showing that the Internet has not helped Dean close the popularity gap with Bush. He says:

But those who think the removal of big media means the newly empowered wil start singing 'Kumbaya' and turn into anti-Bush, anti-war 'emergent democracy' citizens are indulging in wishful thinking, and we now have evidence to that effect. (Yes, I'm looking at you, Joi.) These newly empowered participants actually have to be persuaded. And that's a very good thing, too.
I agree. There is still a lot we need to do. I think we have to look at our successes and try to repeat them and amplify them. We have to acknowledge our failures and try not to repeat them. I never said this was going to be easy. Also, "emergence" sounds a bit lazy, as if it will "just happen." I never asserted this. Emergence is much harder. It is about creating technical and social systems that allow emergence and these can not be designed literally like most hierarchical system, but require active feedback, architectural tweaking and lots and lots of iterations before emergence really happens. I'm excited by the progress and not surprised that we haven't hit mainstream yet.

I would also like to add that I think big media still has a huge role and figuring out the role of blogs in the context of big media is one of the things that I am actively thinking about right now.

Fifteen "bush in 30 second" ads on MoveOn.Org. "a political advertising contest sponsored by moveon.org voter fund."