Law in the Internet Society
-- JianweiFang - 01 Dec 2008

Note: Everyone is welcome to comment on this paper. As English is my second language, I also welcome editing on the language and style.

-- JianweiFang - 01 Dec 2008

This is a very interesting topic. You're right to point out GDP is a flawed measurement if what one is interested in is the underlying quality of life. The case for software--a functional good--being produced better for free under the anarchistic conditions of the net has been made already, But I feel like you need to do more explaining where you jump from that to predicting the death and replacement of the advertising, fashion and entertainment industries.

Sure, the distribution side of the entertainment industry is an inefficient monopoly sustained by misguided copyright laws--but I don't see why movies, music, and book production (in traditional form) would be better accomplished anarchistically. Are you predicting the demise of traditional forms of entertainment because business models for its productions won't adapt to the changed conditions of distribution? If so, how do you think the time currently devoted to such entertainment will be spent?

The death of advertising also strikes me as needing more support. After all, advertising has never been about the needs or desires of its intended audience, but rather about finding better ways to manipulate the audience into buying products and services. The internet, if anything, seems to have increased the revenue stream for advertisers.

-- AndreiVoinigescu - 06 Dec 2008

I am not sure what you mean when you say that the Net will stop us from creating problems in the first place. I agree that existing problems may be solved, such as your argument that the average consumer will be better informed. But it seems more likely that new problems will be created in the upcoming world, even if we can't say what those problems actually are right now. For example, it could not have been predicted in the 1960s that the internet would pose a grave threat to traditional media companies. One of the new problems could be the increasing significance of a disparity between people with internet connections and those without. Moreover, the financial meltdown may squeeze resources that would otherwise have gone to laying down the necessary infrastructure to get the have-nots connected.

-- JasonChan - 10 Dec 2008

To AndreiVoinigescu? : You are right that I jumped in the article so the reader can not follow. I did not do all the explanation because we kinda covered that during the seminar. Furthermore, it is difficult to explain clearly in a short essay. So I skipped that.

Similarly, I believe that the labels (traditional music industry) could not maintain their monopoly status in the new digital era because talented singers could reach consumers easily via internet (they would not necessarily need middle man - labels). However, it is difficult to predict how the industry will shake out.

In terms of existing advertising as an “industry”, it is based on media (papers, TVs, Internet, and alike), the demise of these traditional media will surely mean an end for the existing advertising industry. However, I am not saying that there will be no advertising, but it will exist in a way totally different.

-- JianweiFang - 25 Dec 2008

To Jason: Just for one example, the seminar is predicting that the FREE software will beat Microsoft and alike. The open software, designed by the community, does not have the defects of the commercial software which does not allow the users to modify. In the free software world, there is no virus, and thus no anti-virus software (which is a huge industry).

You have reasons to worry that disparity between those with and without internet access. I am focusing on the “Net” community here. I am not focusing on, say an Africa country, where there is no computer, no yahoo or CNBC. For the “Net” to be taking over, one prerequisite is the internet community. The presumption of “Net” is that people have internet knowledge and access, which is increasing easier to get.

-- JianweiFang - 25 Dec 2008


Stop fearing fear itself

Imagine a world without Microsoft, Yahoo! and Google. Imagine a world without CBS, NBC and Fox. Imagine a world without New York Times, US News, Wall Street Journal, or Newsweek, Business Week. That world is what we are depicting during the semester. Believe it or not, that world will be created by the net, where individuals, connected by and equipped with the net, will be mobilized to take over everything that is controlling internet and media.

Yet, for many who have long been used to where we are, that world is way too scary to even imagine. Surely, people, especially those in the internet and media industries, are fearful because they do not know where they will be positioned in that new world. But let us be brave enough to imagine, at least just for now.

In that world, the high-tech industries from software to the internet are gone. Media from TV networks to newspapers are gone. The NASDAQ, if it still exists and contains the current composite companies, will collapse to nothing. Even more, many other industries dependent on internet giants or traditional or new media, such as advertising, fashion, journalism, publishing and luxury will be hit hard or destroyed. Furthermore, many other service industries related to these industries, such as accounting and legal services, will have to find new business or withdraw substantially.

Therefore, many people are very resistant to the concept of the net reshaping the internet and media. It will hurt the economy, they fear. As a result, some are making every effort to keep the current system intact; others simply dismiss the world as cynical and unrealistic.

It is fair to say that the GDP is likely to decrease because the free net will make a lot of commodities free, which will not be counted as part of GDP. Nevertheless, the concept of GDP is only deceptive hearsay that we have been told for centuries. GDP and its growth are regarded as essential as the air we breathe. The economy based on the quantity of goods and service we produce, is claimed as the only force capable of lifting the poor out of poverty, feeding the world's growing population, meeting the costs of rising public spending and stimulating technological development. As a result, even an industry that does not do any real good to the world, is still as important, if not more, as real industries because they contribute to the GDP. The software and media industry contribute hundreds of billions of value to the GDP; and therefore they must be prevented from falling apart. Such hearsay is repeated everywhere and everyday.

In fact, the decrease in GDP might not be a bad thing for society, taking the software industry for example. The current software industry makes money by producing bad software (such as Windows) so that you will have to spend more money to update it to fix the accompanying problems. The fall of the software industry, which will bring down our GDP, will likely benefit people because they will have better free and open software created and improved by the community. The fall of the media industry will also hurt GDP numbers. Nevertheless, people will not rely on a few monopolistic companies to get news and information, because it will be essentially open and free of charge to the community by its individuals. People will also get less controlled by the commercials to tell them what to eat, what to wear and what to buy. Their lives will benefit from free and objective advice from other consumers and users.

Looking back at the history of human being, old industries have disappeared while new ones have emerged. Even personally we also experienced those changes. For instance, we have seen that professions and trades of younger generation will be totally different from those of their parents. Children of farmers will not have farmland to grow. Children of blue collar workers will not have a factory to work for because it was either shut down or transferred to other country. Still, we have often seen the younger generation found a new way to make a living, equipped with better education and training to adapt to the new economy. We do not yet know for sure what economy will emerge after the fall of the internet and media. But many people will be engaged in providing free software and they will make a decent living somehow.

As you might start to believe, the fall of these industries will probably not be bad. That new world will likely produce less GDP, but people will not have to spend much less on stuffs that could be replaced by better things free of charge. At the end of the day, with unnecessary fat taken away from an over-weight economy, the world will be more efficient. People creates problem, and then solve it and declare the solution as valuable things to be counted as our economic achievement. But what if we stop creating problems at the first place? The net will do that.

As Franklin Roosevelt said in the midst of the Great Depression, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. His word is especially illuminating at a time when our economy is again in great depression. People have reasons to doubt that whole new world for many reasons. If we should not fear in economic depression, we have fewer reasons to fear to adapt to the changes the new world will bring.


Webs Webs

r5 - 25 Dec 2008 - 02:09:28 - JianweiFang
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