Sony Stuck in the Past

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Harry Warner, one of the 3 founding brothers of Warner Bros. Films, famously opposed sound in their motion pictures. “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” he pondered. Luckily for Warner Bros., the other brothers’ opinions prevailed and by 1926, films were being produced with sound for the first time. The internet has been abuzz the past couple weeks with a similar quote from a major film and entertainment conglomerate. Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton caused some collective head scratching among internet users as well as Sony stockholders. I’m not sure either were completely convinced with his original comments, or this week’s rebuttal. At a breakfast speech co-hosted by Syracuse University and The New Yorker, Lynton said:

“I’m a guy who doesn’t see anything good having come from the Internet…(The Internet) created this notion that anyone can have whatever they want at any given time. It’s as if the stores on Madison Avenue were open 24 hours a day. They feel entitled. They say, ‘Give it to me now,’ and if you don’t give it to them for free, they’ll steal it.”

OK. Fair enough. Spoken like a major film corporation exec, but also spoken like a person completely out of touch with today’s reality. For the most part, internet users can snicker when they read naive comments coming from the CEO of a major media company, but what about Sony shareholders? I have to think that some investors are wondering if a change in leadership might be in order.

I’m not sure Mr. Lynton was quite prepared for the firestorm of criticism that his out-of-touch comments created. By today, he had completed a rebuttal, and follow-up on his original arguments, but basically Mr. Lynton is sticking to his guns. While trying to show that he indeed does understand the reality of today’s web, he continues to look back on the glorious days of yesteryear and proposes no solutions apart from the failed policies that have already been tried. Adoring talk about the sanctity of intellectual properety, and tried-and-failed solutions regurgitated as “guidlines” and “restrictions” are still part of Mr. Lynton’s implausible grand solution. And ironically enough, his rebuttal to the blogosphere came in The Huffington Post — an interent only publication!

You can read Sony CEO Michael Lynton’s comments here:

I’d like to know:

(1) Perhaps Mr. Lynton has a point, I mean after all, piracy is rampant on the internet. Should we take his original comments, and rebuttal to all the criticism more seriously?

(2) Can internet piracy be curbed or stopped?

(3) If you were a Sony Entertainment shareholder, would you be voting for a change at the top in the next election?

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