Why has TechCrunch, the technology community’s most influential voice, taken its stand against creative rights?
The latest attack has been against Hasbro, for disabling the Facebook game Scrabulous, which is nothing more than Hasbro’s Scrabble game on Facebook. In doing this, Hasbro has become a caricature of evil for fighting in court against freedom, pluck and Scrabble.
“Hasbro and EA planned their moves very methodically and waited patiently for their chance to strike,” writes Erick Schonfeld. “Perhaps EA felt that it could not compete with Scrabulous other than by taking it out at the knees.”
Michael Arrington has taken similar positions against digital rights for music, and the blogosphere generally has expressed something like contempt for journalists, artists and others whose work has found a new stage on the Internet but often for the profit of the technology distributor — Google News, YouTube, BitTorrent and, for a while, Napster — rather than the creator.
But how is Scrabulous different than the Facebook lawsuit against StudiVZ, the German Facebook copycat that only last week TechCrunch dismissed as “nothing more than Facebook in red and translated in German?”
Here’s what’s different: in StudiVZ, the party being copied was one of us, a software company rather than an old game company that supposedly doesn’t get it.
I know that, of all people, Redfin folks are supposed to stand for liberating data and disintermediating The Man, but I lose my stomach for it when The Man is someone who has created (or paid the creator of) a game, an essay, a photo, a song. We shake our fists at the record labels but at least they’re paying musicians.
And we shake our heads at newsrooms, but every one has become a wasteland of empty cubes, which is a travesty when more people are reading the news than ever before. Spare me the examples of bands who offer their albums for free, then ask for donations; this is nothing more than online busking, the luxury of a great violinist sawing away at a subway stop.
It isn’t easy being a musician, a game-make or a writer but these are exactly the people who should benefit the most from the Internet, not through netizens’ pseudo-altruism but via the medium that all of TechCrunch’s hyper-capitalists purport to respect: commerce.
That we should get everything for free was once a kind of adolescent anarchism but Chris Anderson and others have made it into something much bigger, the new religion of Silicon Valley. For the folks who don’t have venture capital, free’s just another word for nothing left to lose.
TechCrunch is one of the best blogs out there because it has always stood up for the creative guy over the thief. You guys should do that now, even if it’s for Hasbro.
Photocredit (yes, I’m dimly aware of the irony): Wiseacre on Flickr.