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Former U.S. Sen. and new Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America Chris Dodd. When online piracy legislation came up for a vote in Congress in 2012, he found himself up against open the late open Internet activist Aaron Swartz.
Aaron Swartz — a prodigy, an outspoken political and technology activist, co-founder of Reddit, co-creator of RSS, and a central figure in the open Internet movement — was found dead in Brooklyn last weekend, of an apparent suicide. He was 26 and nearing a court appearance for hacking into an MIT database of academic papers to symbolically liberate the information.
There's already an outpouring of grief among Swartz's former partner, the technorati, and the high-tech venture capital world. There has also been considerable speculation that Swartz, who suffered from depression, was driven to kill himself by a government that didn't at all like his accrued power or point of view. At least one blogger has also suggested a more nefarious explanation for Swartz's demise.
Swartz was something of a techno-anarchist, taking his activism to an place that even garden variety Silicon Valley libertarians have been hesitant to go. In his mind, information was born free, but is everywhere in chains. In this, he lived slightly outside the Big Tech-Big Content debate that I've written about as an ongoing battle between Hollywood and Silicon Valley.
I will not be aggregated, only monetized, Disney Princess Sofia tells her animal friends.
At the New York Times, the always-worth-reading-no-matter-what David Carr has an entertaining take on why rumors of the entertainment and media industries' demise at the hands of disruptive technological forces are, for now, exaggerated.
Why? Because Old Media — in television and movies, anyway — turned in a better financial performance than the technology upstarts. I've characterized this as a battle between Big Content — Hollywood — and Big Tech, based in Silicon Valley. And according to Carr, Big Content actually isn't in full retreat [emphasis is mine]:
[W]orries about insurgent threats from tech-oriented players like Netflix, Amazon and Apple turned out to be overstated. Those digital enterprises were supposed to be trouncing media companies; not only is that not happening, but they are writing checks to buy content.
Another thing about those dinosaurs is that they aren’t really old media in the sense of, um, newspapers. When their content is digitized, it is generally monetized, not aggregated. Having learned from what happened in music and print publishing, entertainment companies, built on the still enormous riches of television, have carved their own digital route to consumers.
Hulu is one of those companies that stands squarely between Hollywood and Silicon Valley. CEO Jason Kilar stepped down on Friday.
Brian Stelter and Amy Chozick make the case on the New York Times' Media Decoder blog that Jason Kilar's exit from Hulu had a lot to do with the suits who own TV networks:
Mr. Kilar’s announcement did not come as a complete surprise. At times during his tenure he has clashed with the owners on Hulu, exemplifying the divide between new, disruptive modes of distribution like the Internet and the more traditional operations at major media companies. As the owners pulled back on the amount of ABC, Fox and NBC programming it provided to Hulu, the Web site invested in original, made-for-the-Web programming to fill the gaps and attract attention.
The last time it looked as if Kilar would exit Hulu, it was when Yahoo was coming off an executive scandal, with activist shareholder Dan Loeb of the hedge fund Third Point agitating for both board-level and CEO changes.
Kris Connor/Getty Images for The Weinstein C
Harvey Weinstein has had just about enough of you Internet content pirates and proposes a draconian "French" solution.
If, in the aftermath of the Stop Online Piracy Act/Prevent IP Act (SOPA/PIPA) battle, you thought that only the most intense financiers of Silicon Valley continue to obsess over threats to the "open Internet, we give you...Harvey Weinstein! The Hollywood Reporter catches up with the outspoken producer in England, where he took the occasion of addressing the BFI London Film Festival to absolutely lay into Big Tech.
But first, he heaped praise on recently dethroned French President Nicholas Sarkozy (who awarded Weinstein the prestigious Légion d'honneur prior to leaving office):
"Whether you like his politics or not, this law was good," Weinstein said, "because people are disincentified to steal."
He said the results also could be seen in a country where 260 French movies were made last year, and difficult funding propositions, like the €14 million ($18 million) black-and-white silent film The Artist, could find people to fund it.
"You get a robust local industry from it," he said.
Weinstein's speech was full of humor and barbed observations.
"I love it when these Internet dudes say to me, ‘Hey man, we just want to be 'content neutral,' " Weinstein noted. "Next time, I'll say, 'Sure, I'll get my tie-dye shirt and come and sit in your billion dollar mansion in San Francisco or Silicon Valley for a while, soak it up.'"