Friday, July 27, 2007

Rant Time...

So, today I heard that Second Life has banned all gambling and wagering across the entire game-world.

Now, this isn’t what I actually want to rant about. I hardly play SL anymore, and have never been big into gambling. However, what surprised me was that Linden Labs pussed-out and gave into outside pressure when precedent is so clearly on their side.

Basically, you can gamble online anywhere in the US, as long as the gambling site is physically located in a place where gambling is legal. Plus, SL’s servers are literally all over the world, as are the people who play it. In other words, they’re telling a whole bunch of people in countries where gambling is perfectly legal that they can’t gamble…because it breaks US law.

Secondly, no real money actually changes hands. While you can sell and buy lindens for real money, the vast majority of people earn and spend their lindens in world. It’s essentially the same as taxing people for their earnings in monopoly.

The whole thing’s ridiculous, but that isn’t what I’m ranting about. What I’m ranting about is the reason gambling has been ‘outlawed’.

The reason is simple. Someone was making too much money, and when someone starts making money, the vultures start circling.

No one cared when Second Life had only 60,000 registered users. Now that there’s a few million users, and lindens are changing hands at a huge rate, it all comes down to one thing:

Either the government finds a way for them to take a piece of the pie, or they close it down. They can’t tax money that isn’t a real currency, and most people sell lindens for amounts that are too small to tax.

Basically: “If we can’t get your money, you can’t have it either.”

It’s the same everywhere. Make too much money, or have an idea that renders someone else’s business model obsolete…and you’re in for trouble.

Take the recording industry. Until very recently, the recording industry had a very lucrative position as the middle man. Artists want to perform and sell their music, and consumers want to buy it. It used to be that if you wanted to release an album, the only way to do it was to go through a record label…with the downside for artists and consumers being that more money goes to the record label than ever goes to the artist.

Then the internet came along, and artists had a direct link to their audience. Why go through a label, give up creative control of your music and make literally pennies on the dollar…when you can start your own website, and sell your songs for a couple dollars a pop, and keep all the money yourself?

Long story short, people don’t want to drive to a store and buy a CD anymore, not when they can download a track from the iTunes music store from the comfort of their own homes. Basically, record labels have become all but obsolete…and they don’t like it one bit.

It’s a much better system for us and the artists. We get our music instantly, and it’s much cheaper because the recording industry can’t take as big of a cut. The point is, the recording industry doesn’t make its money from making music…it makes its money from distributing music…something the internet can do a million times better.

So, despite the fact that more money is being spent on music today than ever before, a much smaller percentage of that money is going into the record labels’ pockets. So what do they do? They do everything they can to make sure they alone ‘regulate’ online music sales in order to ‘protect the artists from piracy’.

In other words, someone else came up with MP3’s, someone else came up with the idea of online music sales, but the recording industry wants control of the whole thing. They have absolutely no legal claim in this…they just don’t want their obsolete business cut out of the loop.

Just to highlight how ridiculous this idea is, it’s like the post office demanding that they get to control and regulate email, and that every email has to go through them to ensure that the messages are ‘secure’.

The RIAA doesn’t give a damn what’s best for the consumer or the artists…as long as they still get to take a big wet bite out of the profits. They can’t compete, so they’re trying to make sure that music sales that they don’t control are illegal.

Long story short, DRM and all the furor about piracy isn’t about protecting artists at all, it’s about protecting the distributors profits. The point here is, it’s not illegal to take money from someone by having a better idea, but that’s what the RIAA are trying to make out.

It’s not just limited to music either.

Let me ask you a question. Violent and ‘inappropriate’ video games have been around for over a decade. Mortal Kombat came out in 1992, over 15 years ago. So why did the world wait 15 years before they decided ‘something needs to be done to protect the children’?

Isn’t it an amazing coincidence that video game violence became a ‘real problem’ shortly after gaming went mainstream and started to make tons of money? That the first game to really came under fire is one of the best selling games ever?

Isn’t it also amazing that there have been multiple attempts to take the ratings system out of the hands of the ESRB and put it into the hands of government controlled agencies?

“Your ratings system is wrong, we’ll do it for you…for a fee.”

Not to mention all the high-profile court cases that have resulted in the gaming industry having to lobby (read, give money to) the government?

To be completely honest, the whole thing just makes me sick. It’s greed, pure and simple.

We live in a world were as soon as people start to make real money, people try to take it from them, through fair means or foul. We live in a world where suing people has become a legitimate business model…and when you do take money from an existing industry through fair means (IE, having a much better idea), you’re punished for it.

1 comment:

OzzyC said...

... and you're surprised by this? If I could get money for nothin' and chicks for free, I'd do it. (Sorry about the cheezy Dire Straits quote.)

Oh wait... no I wouldn't... or else I'd be suing the people who owned the boat that was pulling me when I was learning to water ski. After all, it's their fault that I fell and broke my ankle. It's certainly not my fault that I chose to learn a sport that had inherent risks.