TED's roots and core values are no better represented than in the person of Lawrence Lessig. It was he who really Gestalt2 the content of the conference. ("If you love a word, use it." Erin McKean told the TED crowd today. As a criteria for choosing the right word, she says, being in the dictionary is an unnecessary and artificial constraint. What are the odds a word with exponentiation in it will make it into the publication she looks after? As a word and feeling, I love Gestalt2. It's entertainment's Metcalfe's Law on steroids.)
In Lessig's TED talk he recounted John Philip Sousa's passionate opposition to the advance of phonographs and the recording industry. "These talking machines are going to ruin the artistic development of music in this country," Sousa warned, and went on to say, "The vocal cord will be eliminated by a process of evolution, as was the tail of man when he came from the ape."
So, in an abstract sense, goes the tired argument for the prevailing commercial model of copyright protection. But that wasn't Lessig's point. His point was that the Read Only culture that is ardently protected by institutions like the RIAA, the big five recording companies, and portions of the publishing industry, is a culture "where the vocal chords of the millions have been lost."
The stark irony presented was that, indeed the same voice Sousa sought to protect by preventing technology's indiscriminate trampling over humanity's means of expression is again the voice that, several technological generations hence, is opening up for all humanity to hear. Without our common sense recognition of Fair Use, artists like Javier Prato, and Johan Soderberg would not be able to reach most us. Of course, fair use alone does not get such artistic works to the people. You also need a network.
Implicit in all this was more validation that the redshift market projection that Sun is betting on is a very good bet.
For me, Lessig answered an important question that was not asked. Which is more precious to our freedom of expression, fair use or network neutrality? In the RW culture, these convictions to freedom are inextricably connected and equally important.