BOB GARFIELD: Coming up, the age of open source media is upon us; why it pays to give it away.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: This is On the Media, from NPR. [FUNDING CREDITS]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: This is On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone.
BOB GARFIELD: And I'm Bob Garfield. This show often reports on the ongoing argument over intellectual property rights. On one side, the media industries that spend billions making television, film and music products. On the other, the ordinary people who sit before flickering screens, slicing and dicing those products for their own amusement and sharing them in podcasts and blogs and encrypted networks, an arena collectively called The Darknet. Here's an example of what you can hear there, a mash-up of presidential speeches with the song Sympathy for the Devil. [MUSIC UNDER]
MAN: That's news to me.
GEORGE W. BUSH: In today's world, direct communication is a ticket to success. So tonight I propose a plan to destroy you, once and for all. In the next four years, I will work with my fellow Americans-
MAN: Taking requests.
GEORGE W. BUSH: --with the ultimate goal-
MAN: The total control, total control of your soul.
MAN: Will the real rx-
GEORGE W. BUSH: Please stand up.
BOB GARFIELD: To the denizens of the Darknet, it's artistic license. To the media industry, it's theft, and it must be stopped. But, as we'll hear in the rest of this segment, placing digital locks on intellectual property may only breed better lock-pickers and the ill will of consumers. We begin with J.D. Lasica, author of the new book Darknet: Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation. Lasica says the Darknet harbors two kinds of people - the creative and the criminal.
J.D. LASICA: Some people just don't want to pay, you know, ten bucks to see the latest Hollywood movie. I think that's wrong. But other people want to take advantage of these kinds of works and remix them and weave them into their own works and make a new statement. So these are the kinds of creative works that are technically illegal, and we're going to see what happens when this kind of collision between traditional media forms and these new emerging media forms come into play.
BOB GARFIELD: This does seem like the classic example of an immovable object and an irresistible force. Technology and the creative spirit and the desire to remix the president's speeches to the Rolling Stones, being the irresistible force, and ownership rights, based on the blood, sweat, tears, ingenuity and capital of the owners, the immovable object. The collision, as you said, is in progress. At the moment, what's happening?
J.D. LASICA: Traditional media needs to become aware of what's happening out there and to, you know, loosen up a little. Don't be afraid of losing control over what you're calling your intellectual property. Let it go out there and capture new, new audiences. This example that we're just talking about here was, was Sympathy for the Devil, and probably today's kids in high school and college probably never heard of it. So here, the Rolling Stones, are finding new audiences for that kind of music. But what I wanted to emphasize is that the technology is out-pacing the law, it's out-pacing what kind of conversations are happening in Congress today, where, where actually there's an impulse to sort of crack down on this kind of behavior, rather than to, to enable it or to celebrate it. One of the episodes in the book was that I actually wrote to all seven major Hollywood studios asking for permission to use little snippets of their movies in a new home movie that I wanted to make with my 5 year old son. So, like 15 seconds of Ice Age or 30 seconds of Mary Poppins. And six out of the seven studios flatly said no.
BOB GARFIELD: There's a story in your book about an amazing fellow who re-shot the entirety of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Tell me that story.
J.D. LASICA: Well, there were three kids who were about 12 years old when this whole thing began. They saw Raiders of the Lost Ark on the big screen, and they basically said to themselves - this is so totally cool. I want to do this too. So they began a little project filming a remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark in their backyards, and it basically took them about seven years to finish. And at the end of it, they had a little screening in their home town. Everybody came out to see it. Wild applause.
BOB GARFIELD: They recreated it, shot for shot, costume for costume, special effect by special effect. No?
J.D. LASICA: Right. You know, they got some garden snakes in the backyard; they had a dog subbing for a monkey, that sort of thing. But other than that, it was a very faithful recreation of the entire something like 80 minute work. They basically pull it off, and people who've seen this were kind of blown away by the whole thing. So the trouble is that they never got the rights to show this other than in their living rooms to anybody outside of their immediate families, so under the law, under copyright law, it's a derivative work which means that you need the permission of the copyright holder, which, you know, no studio is about to give. So nobody's going to be able to see this movie ever until the copyright on Raiders expires in about a hundred years from now. You know? I don't think anybody would argue that this kind of fan filmdom is hurting anybody, but again, it just shows that the, the laws are out of step with what people are doing with, with their works.
BOB GARFIELD: Is there any reason to think that the United States Congress understands the issues as you've presented them, or, or do you think they're just going to listen to an aggrieved Hollywood and give Disney et al. all of the further production that they request?
J.D. LASICA: It's been a one-sided conversation up until now, so that the movie companies, the music labels, they've got their folks up on Capitol Hill repeating over and over and over the words stealing and piracy, so there has to be some nuance brought into the conversation. There has to be some sort of understanding that if some of these innovative new technologies that are coming down the line as far as file-sharing and bit torrents, if these kinds of things are outlawed, that that'll just drive people further into the Darknet, into the underground, make more people into lawbreakers, and ultimately, it's going to harm the culture.
BOB GARFIELD: J.D., thanks very much.
J.D. LASICA: Good to be here. Thanks a lot.
BOB GARFIELD: J.D. Lasica is author of Darknet: Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation.