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You are here: English BoingBoing ibag A cycle of renewal, broken: How Big Tech and Big Media abuse copyright law to slay competition

A cycle of renewal, broken: How Big Tech and Big Media abuse copyright law to slay competition

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As long we've had electronic mass media, audiences and creators have benefited from periods of technological upheaval that force old gatekeepers to compete with brash newcomers with new ideas about what constitutes acceptable culture and art. Those newcomers eventually became gatekeepers themselves, who then faced their own crop of revolutionaries. But today, the cycle is broken: as media, telecoms, and tech have all grown concentrated, the markets have become winner-take-all clashes among titans who seek to dominate our culture, our discourse and our communications. How did the cycle end? Can we bring it back? To understand the answers to these questions, we need to consider how the cycle worked — back when it was still working. How Things Used to Work In 1950, a television salesman named Robert Tarlton put together a consortium of TV merchants in the town of Lansford, Pennsylvania to erect an antenna tall enough to pull down signals from Philadelphia, about 90 miles to the southeast. The antenna connected to a web of cables that the consortium strung up and down the streets of Lansford, bringing big-city TV to their customers — and making TV ownership for Lansfordites far more attractive. Though hobbyists had been jury-rigging their own "community antenna television" networks since 1948, no one had ever tried to go into business with such an operation. The first commercial cable TV company was born. The rise of cable over the following years kicked off decades of political controversy over whether the cable operators should be allowed to stay in business, seeing as they were retransmitting broadcast signals without payment or permission and collecting money for the service. Read the rest

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