A Lesson from Steve
But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas? …We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills….
President John F. Kennedy, Jr. at Rice University
Houston, Texas, September 12, 1962
It’s still hard to believe he’s gone, but Steve Jobs passed a year ago. I was on a panel at Digital Music Forum West this week about how to “fix” copyright. My view is that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with copyright. Copyright doesn’t hurt artists, it’s people who hurt artists.
Of the many admirable and really difficult things that Steve did in his life that led his industry, one of them has to be his embrace of respect for copyright–including other people’s rights, not just his own. It is important to note that at the time Steve founded iTunes Music Store this took no small degree of courage because the thinking in his industry was definitely running the other way.
Led by the irresponsible Lawrence Lessig and Wired Magazine and soon by Google, the “new tech” industry at the time was captivated by a strain of “Internet Freedom” that made it easy for Big Tech to profit from the human misery of others in a bubble of moral relativism. Since “Internet Freedom” is an empty vessel that is filled from time to time with the blood money of lobbyists, it took real leadership for Steve to turn his back on this “getting away with it” culture and chart his own course.
Not surprisingly, Steve’s choice to embrace the copyright of others has led to enormous financial reward for his company and his employees. He took an already great company and made it greater–ultimate vindication for the “Newton,” if you ask me–and he also put a lot of money into the hands of artists.
Imagine if instead of Steve Jobs running Apple, the company had an off the rack Valley stereotype like Eric Schmidt who would have seen his role as destroying artists for his own profit. Imagine if instead of a sanctuary for artists it had become Apple the Destroyer?
And believe me, it would have been easy for Steve to do that exact thing. He chose to do the thing that was moral, that presented a proper challenge, that would “organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.” He chose to do the thing that was hard.
And for that alone, we should all be grateful.
“A Mind Forever Voyaging Through Strange Seas of Thought — Alone”