Kris Connor/Getty Images for The Weinstein C
Harvey Weinstein speaks during a panel discussion after a screeing of the documentary "Bully" at MPAA in Washington, DC. The producer has become an outspoken critic of the "Open Internet," calling it "stealing."
In the ongoing battle between Hollywood and Silicon Valley over the future of entertainment, two major events - one tragic, the other, comical - have defined the last few weeks.
The tragedy was the apparent suicide of "Open Internet" activist Aaron Swartz. It provoked an outpouring of support for Swartz's at-times radical vision and returned the debate about whether online content should roam free of copyrigh to the national agenda.
The comedy was Kim Dotcom, whose Megaupload site was shut down by the U.S. government last year on the grounds that it was enabling Internet content piracy. Dotcom (not his real name) rolled out a new site last weekend, from the relative safety of New Zealand. He isn't even messing around with the "upload" part any more; the new site is simply called "Mega."
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
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.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Apple introduces the iPhone 5 in San Francisco. It was the first time that the technology juggernaut, the most valuable California company by far, introduced a new device since Steve Jobs' death. Will it be enough to make Apple the world's first $1 trillion company in 2013?
Photo Credit: SpaceX
SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk watches Dragon's progress inside of SpaceX Mission Control in Hawthorne in May. The former PayPal founder whose other company in electric carmaker Tesla Motors put California's space business back on the map — and ushered in a new era of private voyages to the stars. But will he really be able to retire on Mars?
Disney CEO Bob Iger completes a trip of high-profile acquisitions, beginning with Pixar, then moving on to Marvel, culminating with a purchase of Lucasfilm from George Lucas. "Star Wars" now belongs to the Mighty Mouse — and Episode 7 is on the way! But will Disney be able to inject new life into one of pop cultures iconic entertainment franchises?
California was crushed by the housing downturn. But fours years after the bottom fell out, the state's real estate market at last began to show signs of life, as the foreclosure crisis fades and a price bubble even began to form in Southern California. Will the market return to normal in 2013?
Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Time Inc.
Former Google superstar Marissa Mayer took the helm at troubled Yahoo, after a ugly battle between the board of directors and activist shareholder Dan Loeb. Mayer began to make immediate management changes, brought back free food, became one of the most powerful female CEOs on the U.S. — and had a baby! Can she live up to the hype in 2013?
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
The battle for the future of online content heated up. In early 2012, Silicon Valley and Hollywood dueled in Washington, D.C., over anti-piracy legislation. Hollywood had the lobbying power, embodied by former senator Chris Dodd and the MPAA. But Silicon Valley won a critical skirmish in the eleventh hour by blacking out Wikipedia for a day. Will the combatants be able to strike a truce in 2013?
Steven Cuevas / KPCC
San Bernardino fell off its own fiscal cliff in 2012 — and fell fast, declaring bankruptcy quicker than anyone expected. The broke Inland Empire city joined Stockton and Mammoth Lakes in a minor bankruptcy boom in California and set the stage for the municipal bond market's worst nightmare: a long-anticipated wave of defaults in the Golden State. Could that scary event come to pass in 2013?
EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images
It was supposed to be the initial public offering of the century, enriching Facebook employees and investors and reviving a moribund IPO market for high-tech startups. But Facebook flopped in first-day trading and kept on falling in subsequent days. Facebook's lead banker, Morgan Stanley, was blamed for botching the offering. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg went on the defensive. And by year end, Facebook still hadn't recovered it $100 billion valuation. But it topped 1 billion active users before the ball dropped in Times Square to ring on 2013. Will 2013 be the year it bounces back?
This is one in a series of year-end stories that look back at the most memorable pieces KPCC reporters worked on in 2012 and look ahead at a key issue that will be the focus of coverage in the coming year.
How much happened in the Golden State in 2012 when it comes to business? Lots. Lots and lots. The DeBord Report covered most of it.
The slide show above serves up the business year in pictures for the state with the largest economy and two of America's most storied industries: Hollywood and high-tech.
And if you want to review the business year in links to the original posts...well, I've got that covered, too.
9. The long, long, LONG Tribune Co. bankruptcy comes to and end. So who will buy the Los Angeles Times?