The Best of Frenemies

A dozen legendary tech relationships that are...well, complicated.

By  |  Thursday, December 11, 2008 at 4:01 am

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2. Consumers and Hollywood

hollywoodFrenemies since: 1877, when Thomas Alva Edison invented the phonograph and played a recording of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on one, thereby creating the both the consumer electronics and recorded-media industries in one fell swoop.

Acts of friendship: Hollywood makes movies, TV shows, and music that people (sometimes) like; people (sometimes) give Hollywood money and/or sit through commercials for the privilege of consuming those movies, TV shows, and music.

Acts of enmity: Disney and Universal’s unsuccessful 1976 lawsuit against Sony aimed at yanking the new gadget known as the Betamax VCR from America’s living rooms; the RIAA’s unsuccessful lawsuit against Diamond aimed at yanking the new gizmo known as the Rio MP3 player out of America’s pockets; other more successful Hollywood suits against file-sharing services such as Napster, Grokster, and Morpheus; the RIAA’s “College Deterrence” program and related suits against college kids; etc., etc. Also, any piece of DRM that ensnares people who have paid for the content in question, such as Sony BMG’s infamous CD copy protection. But I wouldn’t say that consumers are exactly innocents under unprovoked assault in all cases–massive acts of piracy are, ultimately, more than a tad self-destructive.

Current state of the frenemyship: Slightly more friendly than it once was, as music, movie, and TV companies gradually get used to the idea that the future of content is 100% digital. Still far from fabulous, though.

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