"I'm a guy who sees nothing good having come from the Internet. Period."
Sounds like something your Grandpa might say -- akin to boasting about the cost of gasoline when he was young and the glory days of ham radio.
But the quote actually comes from Michael Lynton, the thoroughly middle-aged CEO of Sony Pictures. He's a guy who lives, and perhaps even thrives, in the Internet age. A guy who, if he's like most other corporate bosses we know of (and more than a little like ourselves...), is probably glued to his BlackBerry or iPhone, fires off e-mails all day, reads the news online and maybe even watches YouTube videos posted by his friends or his kids. Yet, in his own words, nothing good has come from the Internet.
Either Michael Lynton hates his life, or something else is going on here.
I'd bet on the latter. Responding to the inevitable criticism lobbed at his statement, which was spoken during a panel discussion about -- cue the horror music -- the Internet, Lynton stayed on message (emphasis added). Note that his response came in the form of a guest blog post on the Huffington Post:
"But, I actually welcome the Sturm und Drang I've stirred, because it gives me an opportunity to make a larger point (one which I also made during that panel discussion, though it was not nearly as viral as the sentence above). And my point is this: the major content businesses of the world and the most talented creators of that content -- music, newspapers, movies and books -- have all been seriously harmed by the Internet."
Thanks for the clarification, Michael. But it looks like no one actually took your words out of context, right? You really think the world has been harmed by the Internet.
Here's the thing: Michael's world has been harmed. Michael rose to prominence in a world in which content was a commodity; this approach made people like him rich and those who created content well off (some of them, anyway). In this world, the "most talented creators of that content" were those whom he -- the ultimate corporate gatekeeper -- decided should be paid for their work. This meant that execs like Michael had a stranglehold over deciding what was talent, and how and when the public would see it.
Michael is upset because he still sees creativity in terms of what is packaged and processed by "the major content businesses of the world," like the one he runs. But thanks to the Internet, the rest of us are feeling increasingly liberated from the shackles of corporate control over content. The foundation of Michael's world has been rocked by the online creative revolution; our foundation is being built upon it.
The scary thing is that Michael and his cronies are in a position to influence how the FCC implements its national broadband plan. The Obama administration has tasked the FCC to create a plan to get all Americans connected to the Internet, and the agency is currently seeking public comments. Michael and others want to see the Internet shrink, and our ability to generate content shrink along with it. They'll be lobbying hard to convince the FCC that the Internet is somehow bad for us.
But here's the good part: You're in a position to speak out, too. If Michael Lynton's dismissal of the Internet gets your goat as much as it gets mine, do something about it: Tell the FCC that you support an open, accessible Internet.
But time is running out; The first wave of the FCC commenting period is ending soon. So comment now.
Follow Josh Levy on Twitter: www.twitter.com/levjoy