• Law, Policy -- and IT?

    Tracy Mitrano explores the intersection where higher education, the Internet and the world meet (and sometimes collide).


A Grander Bargain

For the foreseeable future, this blog will be the last in my little trilogy of comments related to a discussion last week with network, content owners and higher education folks in D.C. It is my proposal for a Grander Bargain.
April 18, 2012
For the foreseeable future, this blog will be the last in my little trilogy of comments related to a discussion last week with network, content owners and higher education folks in D.C.  It is my proposal for a Grander Bargain.
The Grand Bargain, you might recall two posts ago, referred to a plan whereby the music industry would license campus networks for the use of their content through a portal that upon graduation could be deployed for a paid service. We could expand that discussion to include movies, although recognizing capital expenditures in exponentially greater numbers that are made for film over songs, a fee, perhaps garnered automatically from a student activities fee, is not out of the question. If the music industry takes umbrage at that notion, then I recommend the RIAA and the MPAA sit down and chat together about how to work out something together, but not at any further expense to either students or higher education. (Don't forget, it will cost in F.T.E. to manage this arrangement, so it is not "free" to colleges and universities either … but let's not sweat the details, just take notice that they are there.)
"You can't compete with free!" a representative of the RIAA kept saying at this meeting.  Oh yes you can.  Bottled water historically was the response to that idea, but I want to suggest something in the immediate realm at hand.  There is something more at stake than market considerations.  Ethics, citizenship, respect for the law, higher education and democracy are central to this issue, which is why many of us in higher education continue to care.  So instead of repeatedly making market comparisons to the days before disruptive technology, may I urge the entertainment content industry to turn its gaze upon that which would put it in a better light.  Here are my concrete proposals:
1. Work out the Grand Bargain, with both music and movies.
2. Create a foundation that gives back to higher education. Bill Gates is truly a shining example, and over the years the music and movie industry has made as much if not more than Microsoft did.  Instead of squeezing higher education as an intermediary (yes, I read Goldsmith and Wu's Who Controls the Internet, in fact I have taught it for as long as it has been published), encourage its missions. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has taken this course with the Next Generation Learning Initiative, why don't you guys do something similar?
3. Show positive support to the schools who have worked with you from the beginning!  Instead of the spooky list of worst offenders (please, that very memory is repulsive), how about endowing a chair in a law school for intellectual property or a communications or music or video department of colleges and universities that have spent MILLIONS working on this issue not for you, but with you, because it was in keeping with our own missions.
I may be putting my job on the line with the following statement, but caution to the wind, here it goes: If asked to another conversation with content owners that is still about how to get us to help them make money, I will request of my supervisor to pass me over and send someone else. I do not think I can add anything more to this conversation. Grateful to have been a part of it, glad to have helped, but exhausted I am after all these years of trying to work with a largely ungrateful industry (not individual people, many of whom I personally enjoy and who have a standing invitation to come over to my house for dinner -- I'll even roast a duck in the Big Green Egg and cook pasta for you!). Just as some members of the content industry have put heart and soul into their work, so have I into higher education.  I just can't stand by and watch it get hurt by you anymore.  But enough of the morose … 
Choose the Grander Bargain!


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