This Straits Times article came a few weeks back, but I’ve brought it up in light of the “copyright + creative commons” week for my COM125 class.
The article demonstrates how our Singapore government has missed the point again (so much for their Web 3.0 idea!). They need to better understand how such disruptive innovations work against traditional social and economic system, something which the government of Singapore (and most other countries’) is presently struggling to adapt to.
Disruptive Technology = Breaks Rules
Youtube isn’t exactly copyright-friendly, which is why it’s so popular with everyone. If you were to upload a video there, it gets published faster than any other video-sharing services simply because there are no checks in place. Seeing how Singapore’s copyright act stipulates a 70 years post mortem auctoris, which is on the higher end compared to other countries (see list of countries’ copyright length), there’s an even lower chance of the creative culture (of sharing, mashups, and remixes) being appreciated here, which is sad since YouTube has enabled everyone to see the world in its rawest form for the first time.
Skype isn’t exactly telco-friendly, since it’s finally made telephone-like voice conversations affordable to everyone. With the telecommunications industry being one of the Singapore government’s much invested rice bowls (see SingTel’s Board of Directors), there would have been little appreciation of VoIP being pushed to replace existing cash-rich telephone services. Skype was born out the realization that citizens around the world were tired of being extorted of exorbitantly high charges by their respective telcos.
Forget “Killer App”.
A lot of popular web innovations (aka the bastardized term “killer app”) were developed by accident. From this, we have to forget about short-sighted economic gains, focus on experimentation and openly accept failure as part of the creative process (i.e. fuck the $$$). Citing USA Today on the history of Flickr:
Caterina Fake knew she was on to something when one of the engineers at her Vancouver, British Columbia-based online game start-up created a cool tool to share photos and save them to a Web page while playing. “It turned out the fun was in the photo sharing,” she says. Fake scrapped the game. She and her programmer husband, Stewart Butterfield, transformed the project into Flickr. In less than two years, the photo-sharing site — now owned by Internet giant Yahoo! — has turned into one of the Web’s fastest-growing properties.
Update Your Old Regulations
My advice to the government is not to look to citizens to innovate, but to themselves in making a concerted effort understanding what social media (aka Web 2.0) is really about. Remarks like these are utterly embarrassing as it is in the international media.
Given Singapore’s current legal, political and economic structures, this country probably remains as the worst place to develop such online innovations. It isn’t just about the funding, but the holistic climate of innovation which we lack.
If you want a “lighter” understanding of all this, listen to the MrBrown Show podcast (7th Feb 2007) for details.