What a juxtaposition. The topic today in Internet law is The Way it Was, a look back at that techno-utopian era when people gushed about how the Internet was borderless, outside the reach of and even incomprehensible to sovereign nations, and the vehicle for a “civilization of the Mind” in the words of John Perry Barlow. Such quaint continues to influence discussions of Internet governance and wild, untamed corners of cyberspace still exist but the mainstream Internet–an incomprehensible pairing of words a decade ago–can be readily coopted in ways that make old-timers weep.
A case in point is exposed in a today’s Wall Street Journal article titled Download This: YouTube Phenom Has a Big Secret (subscription required). The phenom is Marie Digby, “[a] 24-year old singer and guitarist . . . hailed as proof that the Internet is transforming the world of entertainment.” The Journal reports that while Digby presents herself as a simple girl who posted on YouTube home-made videos of herself playing the guitar and singing in her bedroom–videos that have been viewed more than 2.3 million times–“Hollywood Records signed Ms. Digby in 2005, 18 months before she became a YouTube phenomenon. Hollywood Records helped devise her Internet strategy, consulted with her on the type of songs she chose to post, and distributed a high-quality studio recording . . . to iTunes and radio stations.” According to the article Digby has “feign[ed] amateur status” with misleading blog postings on her MySpace page and comments in public appearances that belie her backing by a record label. The article contains this telling statement: “Ms. Digby says she doesn’t mention her record label on her Web sites because ‘I didn’t feel like it was something that was going to make people like me.'” That’s true. It’s hard to market a product with an unpleasant aftertaste.
The more things change . . .