The thing about blogging is that bloggers tend to have the last word. Lawyers don’t get that very well. And corporate leaders who let the legal brains take the lead on the blog world, are setting themselves up for some real nastiness in the blog world.
This is the message I tried to communicate about Disney as related to their legal attacks on Spocko. Apple has a history of protecting their intellectual property very aggressively–understandable given the fact their value is increasingly tied to their stunning innovations. But, you take this thinking into the blog world too far and you are going to get hammered. Blogging (and increasingly the internet) is about conversing. And when the reaction to conversation is to bring out the legal beagles, it tends to annoy those who just want to talk about things. If a conversation involves proprietary property, the polite thing to do is to make a request. Just say please. If there are competitive reasons, or the property in question can do substantial harm to the company if not protected, then say pretty please, or else. But to just jump up with the barking dogs isn’t polite, doesn’t make much sense, and will cause the kind of reaction that Apple is seeing in the blog world: see techcrunch article called Apple Bullies Bloggers Again.
Here’s the risk–Apple is riding high. Stock is skyrocketing. Innovations pile on innovations. Complete domination in key markets. And now comes the arrogance. We all like winners. We hate arrogant winners. Arrogant winners become losers. And we become glad. Pride goeth before the fall. And all this thinking just because they let loose some eager lawyers to beat up on bloggers. Apple, wise up.
In my previous blog, I suggested that Disney’s approach to shutting down media critic Spocko (who was hurting an ABC radio station by convincing advertisers to abandon it) was heavy handed and would ultimately backfire. The lively discussion about this on this blog shows the difference of opinion. Spocko should not steal copyrighted material–that is wrong, illegal, unethical, etc. But to deal with this breech of the law and courtesy by forcing removal by legal means, I suggested, might not play well with the blog world.
I think I might be right. After being forced off the web by his ISP, Spocko responded by finding a new ISP willing, apparently, to take on the legal challenge. But what is far worse for Disney, is that a localized fight has now become a cause celebre in the blog world, and as this story indicates, bloggers concerned about free speech are also taunting Disney by putting those stolen audio files on their blogs.
The right way to deal with it from Disney’s perspective is to point out loudly that what Spocko is doiong is a violation of their copyrighted materials. It is wrong, illegal, unethical, etc. Someone who cares so little about protecting other people’s rights and is operating with so little concern for right and wrong has little credibility as a critic. He shows himself to be a “true believer” in the sense that he is so convinced of his moral purity on this that he feels justified in taking any measure–illegal or not, unethical or not.
By using the heavy legal hand, they have pushed the controversy into the far corners of the blog world. It was the brutal persecution of the Christians in the Roman world that caused its rapid spread around the world. The lesson lives on.
There are various ways that companies and organizations are dealing with blog wars and online critics. One of them is legal. And a major legal tool is copyright infringement. I am aware of companies using violations of copyrights to try to control or limit what bloggers are saying about them. Disney is using the posting of audio files from an ABC Radio owned radio show as a basis for shutting down a media critic’s site (spocko) that is apparently causing them some damage.
This story provides the details. Indeed, go to Spocko’s blog and you get an error message.
My question is this–is wielding the heavy legal hand effective in the blog world? This is a pretty extreme case and there is no question that companies, artists and individuals need to work very hard to protect their intellectual property in the wild lawless internet land. But the purpose here is clearly not to protect valued intellectual property. It is to staunch the flow of ad dollars resulting from Spockos attacks and efforts to stop advertisers from supporting right wing messages he hates.
The blog world in general does not look kindly on this strategy. It will be interesting to see the comments about Disney’s heavy legal hand. I suspect most bloggers will be rooting for Spocko. And in that is the lesson for you or others who may be heavily engaged in your own reputation blog war.