Friday, May 04, 2007

Wise words, or how lawyering changes with the Internet

Put this in the file drawer marked "It Ain't Business as Usual Anymore" right there along with the previous stuff about how silly it was to propose anti-trust exemptions so that media companies can put their content behind walls.

In this case, it's John Dvorak at Marketwatch speaking truth to power -- specifically lawyers armed with "cease and desist" letters. The backstory is the discovery of a 32-digit hexadecimal key that apparently is part of the copy protection in HD-DVD players. It was cracked and, of course, posted on the Internet. It ended up on Digg, which promptly got one of those letters. Digg caved, but then put the post back up. Dvorak picks it up from there -- a few selected excerpts, but be sure to read the whole thing:

But the episode reemphasizes the new era in corporate control of trade secrets: It's harder to keep a secret than ever before, and lawyers are not helping.
I think it's time I doled out some advice for the corporate executives who can't bring themselves to admit that it is not 1952 anymore. ...

When an attorney sends out threatening letters to people these days, especially to bloggers and other Internet mavens, these documents get scanned and published online to be widely distributed.
Most of these letters are written to sound intimidating, often with a lot of language that's mean-spirited. People, sometimes by the millions, read these and get angry not at the lawyer, but at the company that hired the lawyer. This can lead to a public-relations disaster.
Once something goes out on the Net, it gets copied and posted elsewhere. Even if the original is taken down, other versions appear immediately.
The legal profession has not adjusted to this new phenomenon, and as long as they are being paid by the billable hour, they figure the PR folks (also paid by the billable hour) can fix any problem. ...

But if ruining a client's image and reputation, and often turning it into a laughingstock is done in the name of "protecting," then perhaps the legal profession should reconsider whether it's being counterproductive.

The AACS, the folks behind the "advanced access content system" now are scrambling to revoke that particular key and make everyone with a player update the software. Let the games begin.

Do you see any parallels here with the cries of anguish from newspapers and others in journalism? I do. The bottom line is that control may be achievable, but at such a high cost (in money and squandered consumer goodwill) that it's not worth it. Put the effort into developing content people want, even if you end up narrowcasting. More and more, people seem to have a way of finding what they need and aggregating it.

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At 12/13/10, 6:59 AM, Anonymous legal dodo said...

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