In Conversation: User-Generated Content and Molecular Rights

I’ve been in a few online conversations over the past week or so and wanted to call out two of them in particular because they operate on either end of the current “user-generated content” meme.

The first convo developed – of all places – on Nussbaum’s blog. The entry, “Xbox Against Wii And PS3–Who Has The Strongest Community?” (Link) got a little off-track when the topic turned to the impact user-generated content could have on developing brand communities.

The bulk of the back-and-forth was between myself and another commenter identified as “b4hoops”. While we agreed on most things, where we disagreed was on the pace of change; I think the console manufacturers, in particular Sony and Microsoft (since they already have “marketplaces”) are dragging their feet. As a result, I think they’re missing an opportunity to both engage with and benefit from a more direct involvement with their consumer audience.

Second up, and to continue the general thought regarding pace of change, Jamais Cascio posted an entry that needs much more attention than it’s apparently getting because it’s something that might overtake us (as have so many other technological developments). In “Molecular Rights Management” (Link), Cascio is raising the issue of DRM as applied to user-fabricated content; specifically molecular assemblers.

If you read the post – and my comments – you might understand why I follow the IP debates with such interest and increasing alarm. This will no longer be about mundane issues such as making money.

Imagine a “28 Days Later…” scenario but replace the research lab with someone’s kitchen and a molecular fabber. Remember Gibson’s short story, “New Rose Hotel“?

You left me all your things.
This gun. Your makeup, all the shadows and blushes capped in plastic. Your Cray microcomputer, a gift from Fox, with a shopping list you entered. Sometimes I play that back, watching each item cross the little silver sceen.
A freezer. A fermenter. An incubator. An electrophoresis system with integrated agarose cell and transilluminator. A tissue embedder. A high-performance liquid chromatograph. A flow cytometer. A spectro-photometer. Four gross of borosilicate scintillation vials. A microcentrifuge. And one DNA synthesizer, with in-built computer. Plus software.

Whatever is done, however, it needs to be done with everyone’s support. There can’t be two opposing sides. Not for this. And as a result, people are going to have to consider voluntarily giving up some of the entitlements to which they’re now becoming accustomed.

The word “compromise” needs to re-enter everyone’s lexicon.

Music may become a “pay what you want” business, and Pirate Bay may gain political power to match their ad revenue, but in the end some of the behaviors which are being currently rewarded may come back to haunt us.

We need to be very careful what we wish for.