In Clay Shirky’s response to R.U. Sirius’ “Is The Net Good For Writers?” (10 Zen Monkeys: 5 October 2007), he takes on the persona of someone talking about what new changes are coming with the Gutenberg movable type press. At one point, he says, “Such a change would also create enormous economic hardship for anyone whose living was tied to earlier scarcities.”
It’s not just writing and writers and publishers that now face that change. Scarcities drove the music and movie businesses, and those scarcities are disappearing. When music is no longer tightly controlled in terms of creation, availability, manufacture, and distribution, when it’s possible to download or listen to anything at any time, those businesses face rapid, discombobulating change.
Is it the government’s – or society’s – duty, however, to put those scarcities back into place, either through technologies or law?