Visionary John Perry Barlow interviewed in InfoWorld by Steve Gillmor:
- JOHN PERRY BARLOW is a retired Wyoming cattle rancher, a lyricist for the Grateful Dead, co-founder of the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), and an outspoken advocate for fair use of content. In an interview with InfoWorld Test Center Director Steve Gillmor, Barlow discusses his opposition to DRM (digital rights management), intellectual property law, and copyright extension.
InfoWorld: What is the message that you feel needs to be made about DRM?
Barlow: I think that anybody who cares about the future of technology — anybody who cares about the future, period — ought to be awfully concerned about this. But people who work in technology have been agnostic on the subject so far. They need to recognize that they’re going to be faced with a fairly stark choice, which is a gradual concentration around certain trusted platforms that cannot be broken out of and are filled with black boxes that you can’t code around and can’t see the inside of.
You have to get politically active and stop it from happening, because Congress has been bought by the content industry. The choice is being made at a very complex and subterranean political level. It’s being done in standard settings, with the FCC, in amendments to obscure bills in Congress, in the closed door sessions to set the Digital Broadcast Standard. It has very significant long-term effects [for] the technical architecture of cyberspace, because what we’re talking about embedding into everything is a control and surveillance mechanism for the purpose of observing copyright piracy, but [it] can be used for anything.
….InfoWorld: Do we have to wait for an artist to do this?
Barlow: We need to start giving people a mechanism that they can use to compensate the artist themselves.
InfoWorld: Which is?
Barlow: I think there are a variety of ways. They’re doing it already [with] the performance model, which I don’t think is perfect but it’s actually better than it’s given credit for being. Think about it: $17 billion in CD sales last year [and] of that the artists themselves got less than 5 percent. There was $60-some billion in concert proceeds last year, and of that the artists got closer to 35 or 40 percent. … There is already a system of compensation that’s working, and I think that there will be other systems of compensation that can work. … We have the assumption that unless you’re selling 200,000 units of work, you’re not successful. Well that’s true — under the current conditions — because it takes at least that much before [the artist] ever sees a dime. But if you’re not dealing with this piratical intermediary, you can do just fine with an audience of 5,000 or 6,000.