Rich Man's Rant About Internet as Xerox Machine 25% Correct

If you read just one piece of hysterical overheated lunacy today, although I certainly hope you read many of them, definitely make it third-generation rich man and Harper’s magazine funder John R. MacArthur’s rant about the Internet.

The dot com bust didn’t end my Internet travails. It wasn’t so long ago—maybe eight years—that I found myself trapped in a corridor at Harper’s, surrounded by a small mob of what I can’t help but refer to as “young people.” These youthful members of my editorial staff—one of them now the co-editor of Mother Jones Magazine—were imploring me, demanding even, that I meet the Internet revolution head on by posting free what they also described as “content” on our brand new Harper’s Web site so that it might be consumed by a huge reading public supposedly dying to read our longish essays, reporting and short stories. The Internet, I told them, wasn’t much more than a gigantic Xerox machine (albeit with inhuman “memory”), and thus posed the same old threat to copyright and to the livelihoods of writers and publishers alike.

The problem here being that he’s 75% unbelievably wrong—the ramblings on how terrible it was that SOPA was defeated!—but then also sometimes right.