May 18, 2024

The Possibility of Doing Good AND Doing Well

The recent Sturm and Drang over the Associated Press’ concern about their stories being excerpted in blogs and on web sites without compensation has been continued in blogs [1] [2] by Will Richardson.

Some well-fed fully-employed bloggers long for a Utopian world where all intellectual capital is free. They use the technical breakthroughs of the Web as evidence that expertise and intellectual capital are devalued in a world in which “content” can be had by the barrel at no cost.

Such a view ignores the value of art, culture and civil traditions while viewing the world entirely through the eyes of economists. The answer to runaway capitalism is not Marxism.

I just read a terrific new article about how good old fashioned hard work, competent management, respect for artists and emerging technology is being used to make opera more profitable and accessible.

New York’s famed Metropolitan Opera Company is improving the bottom line and increasing its relevance without defaming, devaluing or disrespecting their employees or compromising the quality of their “product.” In fact, they are honoring hundreds of years worth of artistic tradition and its importance to Western culture, by building upon those traditions and reaching new audiences.

Surely, there are some lessons here for education.

5 thoughts on “The Possibility of Doing Good AND Doing Well

  1. You continue to show that you have zero respect for copyright law by ignoring one of the greatest tenants of it–fair use. You claim that bloggers want a utopian world where everything is free.

    No. Almost all bloggers are knowledge works of some sort. Without intellectual property laws, they wouldn’t have the money to be paying the hosting for their blogs. What they want is for companies and organizations to follow copyright law–which clearly has exceptions for fair use.

    No companies are losing revenue due to excerpts. Excerpts can *not* be considered a substitute for the original. In fact, excerpts and links increase revenue due to increased inbound traffic.

    Stop trying to muddy the waters with talks of losing jobs and “copyright violations.” The only people violating laws work for the AP, in this case.

  2. Hello, Gary,

    A few thoughts here —

    RE: “Some well-fed fully-employed bloggers long for a Utopian world where all intellectual capital is free. They use the technical breakthroughs of the Web as evidence that expertise and intellectual capital are devalued in a world in which “content” can be had by the barrel at no cost.”

    This is a straw man argument, and as such doesn’t provide much in the way of grounds for a real discussion. Just because the straw man argument is ridiculous doesn’t mean that its counterpoint will be any less ridiculous.

    The piece you link to on the Met is a great example — they shifted their approach in response to a changing terrain. As I read the article, they adapted their artistic creation to a shifting social, economic, and artistic context — and backed it up with some new marketing and distribution arrangements. Definitely something to learn from that.

    But I’m confused — your comments in this post seem at odds with, for example, your comment on Wes’s recent thread on podcasting at NECC, where you advocate recording and distributing, and to hell with the consequences. This seems out of line with your thoughts in this post where you associate a negative response to the AP’s plan with Marxism.

    But more surprising is your post on this blog from June 9th, titled “…and you’re out” — the post describes a Supreme Court decision upholding the right to use stats, player names, team names, etc, for free in fantasy baseball. Your take in the post is that the Supreme Court got it right, and that MLP was overreaching. And, fwiw, I agree with your take on this.

    But, in the baseball post, you quote the NY Times article, and link back to the original — something that would be in clear violation of the AP’s rules, unless you ponied up cash to do it.

    So I don’t get it. Are you annoyed by the “well-fed fully-employed bloggers” and drawing a line in the sand here? Or do you think the AP approach is a viable path forward into the world of online media, and in line with Fair Use?

  3. Bill,

    I’m not a lawyer. The AP story may or may not be permissible fair-use. I suppose it will be settled in the courts, the venue for resolving legal disputes.

    My main point is that AP has a right to try and collect as much money as they want or restrict the use of their property. They very well may lose in the marketplace or in the courts.

    I called for some civil disobedience in Wes and Miguel’s blogs in response to the NECC issue. NECC banning recording is hardly a threat to our democracy, but if you’re upset, do something!

    The Major League Baseball story was merely me passing along an article ala the blogosphere. I didn’t do a lot of heavy lifting there.

    I do have serious concerns with the erosion of respect for intellectual property and expertise, especially among educators. A blog may be an inadequate forum for debating such issues.

    Thanks for reading,


  4. Gary, you use the word “free” as in “no cost” when criticizing “some well-fed fully-employed bloggers”. I question whether these unnamed bloggers really exist in significant numbers but regardless, you can be rest assured that I too reject their “Utopian world”.

    The world we should strive for is one where works are free as in freedom yet reserve some essential rights and grant reasonable privileges to artists and authors as an incentive.

    I reject the free beer view as much as I reject the “right to collect money” from “their property” view. Both are extremely shallow approaches.

  5. Hello, Gary,

    Thanks for the clarifications — in case you were wondering, my questions were asked in all sincerity.

    RE the NYTimes/baseball story, it struck me as an interesting juxtaposition because that type of sharing is exactly what the AP policy would hinder and prohibit. I visited the NYTimes site because of your post — I would not have gone their otherwise.

    As you point out, it is AP’s right to attempt to eke as much profit out of their content as possible. As such, it’s also our right to reject a shortsighted effort that shows little understanding of the market they’re trying to expand into — particularly when that effort attempts to rewrite or ignore what is legally enforceable.

    RE NECC/ISTE: if it actually surprised me, then it might bother me. The proof will be in how readily they grant requests to podcast sessions, and whether ISTE itself follows similar guidelines in recording sessions. With all that said, I’ve never thought that ISTE/NECC was all that progressive in the first place — for an organization that bills itself as a leader in the field, they do precious little leadership. I’m not attending NECC this year, but even on years where I do go, the main value for me is in the conversations that occur outside sessions, rather than the sessions themselves.

    RE: “A blog may be an inadequate forum for debating such issues.”

    Oh, no. A blog is always the best forum. Always. Where else can you be guaranteed a medium free from shrillness, and unreasoned discourse? Besides, of course, talk radio. Or Fox News.



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