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Krist Novoselic's column on music and politics runs every Tuesday on Reverb. Check back on Friday when he writes about what's circulating through his iPod.


Why I Agree With Bono

Thumbnail image for chebono.jpg
Krist Novoselic's column on music and politics runs every Tuesday on Reverb. Check back on Friday when he writes about what's circulating through his iPod.
When I logged onto Twitter yesterday, I discovered U2's Bono going down in Tweeted flames. Turns out the singer/philanthropist wrote a forward-looking Top-10 list for The New York Times in which he states, "A decade's worth of music file-sharing and swiping has made clear that the people it hurts are the creators." Bono just ripped the lid off the tension between a free and open Internet and the natural course of commerce that drives our information revolution.

I love Twitter, and it's disappointing to see the service manifest itself as a lynch mob. Bono is the latest in a line of good people who get trashed in the continuing file-sharing controversy. Hilary Rosen, Lars Ulrich, Prince, and Howard King are some of the most prominent of those who've gotten flamed by rhetoric more suited for the revolutions that brought in the 20th century.

Venture capital, risk, and the promise of wealth is what makes our networks expand and our processors speed up, to provide all the wonderful free content available at our fingertips today. Remember the old song "Working in a Coal Mine," with the line "How long can this go on?" The song alludes to the toil of the working man, but I'll put it another way: How long can free Twitter and YouTube go on?

YouTube is a miracle. It's like walking into a record store or video-rental store and walking out with armloads of free stuff! I love YouTube! Nirvana is all over YouTube. You can even listen to my Nirvana bass lines soloed on YouTube. I don't have a problem with that, and I'm happy that aspiring bassists can hear the riffs on their own. YouTube is basically Google. (And their partner Vevo is a new incarnation of the big bad music industry!) Bono's editorial points out that "it's perfectly possible to track content" by making ISPs hold pirates accountable for spreading copyrighted information--like mp3s and movies--for free online.

I feel that too many Web users just assume that content should be free. I'll admit that I'm not up to speed on having ISPs regulate copyrighted material, but here's why I agree with Bono on the idea of compensation for content providers: Content needs to be worth something if anybody is going to care about it. Free content will ultimately resemble, well, free content. Look at it from a venture capitalist's perspective: Somebody bet big bucks on a film like Avatar. They invested many millions to develop cutting-edge motion-picture technology that would dazzle enough people to make their money back and then some. Now imagine Avatar in context of the YouTube model--a shaky camcorder with hand-held G.I. Joe and Barbie dolls. Which would you pay for?

Watch U2 on YouTube appearing in highly produced videos - they're great! And the band predated Twitter by thirty years with the wonderful song "I Will Follow". With Twitter you will follow and be followed and here's the best part - it's free! And there's hardly any advertising (not enough to pay the bills). The difference is that most musicians, artists, and filmmakers don't have the backing of Google (YouTube) and venture capitalists (Twitter). Don't get me wrong, again I love YouTube and Twitter - two great promotional tools for bands big and small - but when are the bills going to come due for these free services and the quality content needed to sustain viewers.

If the mouse-pad revolutionaries are flaming Bono over free content--in 140 characters or less--then to them Twitter must be anarcho-communalism for the 21st century. After all, it is a voluntary association based on sharing. Behold, comrades, the preamble to the Digital Utopian Manifesto: Our goal is to provide a service that allows you to discover and receive content from sources that interest you as well as to share your content with others. We respect the ownership of the content that users share, and each user is responsible for the content he or she provides. Because of these principles, we do not actively monitor user content and will not censor user content, except in limited circumstances . . .

These words are taken from the Twitter rules. Yes, even Utopia has rules, based on respect of ownership, and in limited circumstances, you could get censored. Even the cute little Twitter Bird has been advised regarding copyright statutes! How about using Twitter to flame Twitter!

Be sure to also flame me, another over-rewarded rock star @KristNovoselic.

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