The always interesting and cool venture capitalist / gamer Joi Ito gave an interview to Daniel Terdiman of CNET at their in-world headquarters yesterday. Joi touched on such subjects as copyright and IP in Second Life, Creative Commons, the game industry, and work and World of Warcraft.
Daniel will be posting a fuller interview shortly. Meanwhile, here’s the rough transcript as provide by Tao Takashi.
Thanks for hosting this, Daniel!
Transcript of interview of Joi Ito by GreeterDan Godel on November 18, 2006 at CNET HQ on Millions of Us sim (Provided by Tao Takashi):
GreeterDan Godel: everyone, welcome to CNET. Thanks for coming
GreeterDan Godel: and especially to you, joi, thank you for joining us
Joi Ito: thanks for having me Daniel
GreeterDan Godel: i will ask some questions, and then we will take audience questinos at the end
GreeterDan Godel: so, if you can folks, please hold your questions, and IM them to me
GreeterDan Godel: let’s get started
GreeterDan Godel: Joi, you travel more than anyone I’ve ever heard of. Can you tell us where you’ve been in, say, the last 2 months, and why?
Joi Ito: I have to look that up… one sec ;-P
Joi Ito: I think I’ve been in Bulgaria, Greece, US last month… but more US stuff than usual this year
GreeterDan Godel: why so much travel? what brings you to all these places?
Joi Ito: I spend more time on the plane than any particular place though… which reminds me. I need to buy some carbon credits today to offset my flight carbon… *end
Joi Ito: well Greece was the Internet Governance Forum
Joi Ito: Bulgaria was a couple of talks and an ICANN meeting
Joi Ito: Bulgaria is a cool country… the Prime Minister is an Internet Society Member and their ministry of foreign affairs just put a Creative Commons license on all of their content
GreeterDan Godel: nice
Joi Ito: I’ll be going to Brazil for another ICANN meeting soon… and one of my favorite conference, the Chaos Communications Congress in Berlin in Dec… coolest hacker conference run by the Chaos Computer Club folks. *end
GreeterDan Godel: so tell us this: When someone asks what it is you do for a living, how do you answer?
Joi Ito: I try not to answer that question… but my conference badge at Web 2.0 in SF last week was "We Know Guild"… my World of Warcraft guild
Joi Ito: but I’m sort of part time entrepreneur, VC and non-profit board member
Joi Ito: and Guild Admin for my guild
GreeterDan Godel: 🙂
Joi Ito: I do some writing, blogging, speaking and government policy work on the side *end
GreeterDan Godel: what is it that ties everything you do together?
Joi Ito: Well there is a great sort of disturbance in the way things SHOULD BE caused by monopolies…
Joi Ito: Telcos for networking, Hollywood for content copyright and Microsoft and others for software
Joi Ito: There is also main stream media (mostly TV) monopolies
Joi Ito: These monopolies cause inefficiencies… which are in some ways business opportunities, in other ways things that mess up government policy and in other ways things that need to be addressed by social movements
Joi Ito: I fight against these monopolies by writing about them, participating in non-profits and betting against them in venture businesses
Joi Ito: so in a way it ties together…. *end
GreeterDan Godel: you must have a lot of enemies at these monopolies, i would think?
GreeterDan Godel: but you must also work with them…how do manage that balance?
Joi Ito: Well, there are certain people who probably see me as an enemy, but actually, many of these monopolies on a personal basis are supportive of change… it’s sort of the inertia of the machine in many cases that is causing them to be the way they are
Joi Ito: Also… these monopolies behave differently in developing nations
Joi Ito: Often it is a few people in these monopolies that are causing the "hold up" of opening up
Joi Ito: but I’m not sure if I really manage a "balance"… but I try to take a fairly moderate stance
Joi Ito: but I still end up getting called a communist by some and a "money oriented businessman" by others ;-P
Joi Ito: *end
GreeterDan Godel: let’s talk about creative commons. what do you think is the positive change CC can make?
Joi Ito: Well I think that the cost of producing and distributing content has dramatically been reduced with the Internet and modern technology
Joi Ito: you no longer need lots of capital, investments of time and money to "produce" content
Joi Ito: the media of today is a huge system that funds the production and distribution of content
Joi Ito: and there are "professional" that take care of the manufacture of content to be distributed and consumed
Joi Ito: but if you look at the change in consumption of media… take Japanese youth for instance
Joi Ito: it went from CDs->video games->Karaoke->text messaging
Joi Ito: from content to context
Joi Ito: more and more, with technology you realize people want to communicate and share more than they want to sit and consume
Joi Ito: the problem is… copyright and the way we are designing laws and our technology are mostly guided by the business models and lobbiest for the old system…
Joi Ito: what’s also important is that many of the artists and professionals would like to share more than they currently can under our system
Joi Ito: So there are various ways to try to represent the needs of the amateurs/users/people against the older system
Joi Ito: there are social movements like free culture movement
Joi Ito: which are really important
Joi Ito: but CC is focused mostly on trying to build a set of licenses with legal and technical robustness that will allow people to chose to make certain rights available to others
Joi Ito: and CC represents a spectrum of rights
Joi Ito: all the way from fully open to just allowing samples, for instance
Joi Ito: one of the keys for me personally is that CC is able to integrate into technology… for instance Flickr, Google, Yahoo all recognize CC markup
Joi Ito: and by gettting it imbedded into services and technology, we can allow the market to help spread the ability for people to chose to share
Joi Ito: rather than have to fight it all out in courtrooms and protests… although those are very important
Joi Ito: if we don’t do anything, we may lose the ability to innovate, share, etc. and the Internet might look more like cable TV married to a phone system again in the future. *end
GreeterDan Godel: it may be too early to speculate, but let’s try: How do you think a Democratic Congress in the US will effect the copyright and DRM landscape?
Joi Ito: Well hopefully they will understand and it will be slightly better….
Joi Ito: however, being a democrat doesn’t make you necessarily smart about DRM and copyright
GreeterDan Godel: 🙂
Joi Ito: for instance, Al Gore’s "An Inconvenient Truth" should definitely have been open… but it’s not
Joi Ito: I don’t think even Al understands the power of open source or sharing
Joi Ito: Many Democrats I know don’t like Wikipedia because they think it can be slanderous
Joi Ito: even many supporters of the Internet feel that this lawless nature of things is "bad"
Joi Ito: because they are lawmakers…
Joi Ito: I think it was Pepper at the FCC and a few core people that helped keep the Internet from being controlled during the beginning…
Joi Ito: But there are a few that know what we are talking about… Rick Boucher is one of them *end
GreeterDan Godel: nice 🙂
GreeterDan Godel: obviously, copyright has come up as a big issue here in SL in recent days. What do you think the role of copyright here can and/or should be?
Joi Ito: Well I think it’s great that SL allows people to use CC licenses and has a ToS that grants ownership of content to the citizens
Joi Ito: I think it’s a huge first step
Joi Ito: Right now, to get a screen shot cleared from Blizzard for instance, I have to go through their legal department and sign an agreement that I would need a lawyer to review
Joi Ito: I think that Machinima is a very important part of the amateur video movement and the copyright issue will become more important as more commercial projects get involved
GreeterDan Godel: holy cow
Joi Ito: but copyright is REALLY complex…
Joi Ito: and we need to develop processes and practices that we’ll only figure out by doing
Joi Ito: and this is a perfect place
Joi Ito: Fumi Lurra, works for me at Digital Garage and she has a TV show in Japan that is all CC attribution licensed
Joi Ito: we freaked everyone out by putting the whole show on You Tube
Joi Ito: People didn’t realize we could do it legally, but when we did, it was obvious… (people in main stream Japanese TV land that is) *end
GreeterDan Godel: let’s talk about World of Warcraft. For those that don’t know, talk about how you and your colleagues use WoW in the work enviroinment?
Joi Ito: Well… 😉
Joi Ito: It’s not "on purpose" at this point
Joi Ito: I think it was Cory O from Second Life who first called it "the new golf"
Joi Ito: but it was in the context of all the gaming industry folks playing it
Joi Ito: anyway… I don’t necessarily use it for work, but I do learn a lot from the game and the guild dynamics
Joi Ito: there are various levels…
Joi Ito: first you learn about various uses of technology… like always on massive audio … like Teamspeak
GreeterDan Godel: but don’t you and your work team communicate through WoW, usinjg it as a tool?
Joi Ito: when you first start using it… you want to start and end conversations… and fear stepping on each other in chat.. (in raids we have 40 people on at the same time)
Joi Ito: but after awhile you learn how to talk and give way way someone needs to say something… and learn to have it always on for hours without feeling weird about silence…
Joi Ito: it’s something we CAN do with Skype but we don’t because it’s not a common practice
Joi Ito: Playing WoW… which is really a massive presence sharing, group activity management system that people play all day… gives you some ideas about tools we could use in the office….
Joi Ito: but back to your question… some of the people I work with I play WoW with
Joi Ito: and we talk shop while we play
Joi Ito: but I don’t think it’s a huge part of the game or the office work…
Hyperstar Tsuki: Joi, can I give you something?
Joi Ito: having said that, I do know of companies where a high number of people play and it is more like "shop talk"
Joi Ito: For instance, I think all of the execs at Electronic Arts play WoW 😉
GreeterDan Godel: no way!
GreeterDan Godel: i’m going to have to ask them about that
Joi Ito: you should 😉
Joi Ito: but I think more and more people from work will start playing
Joi Ito: the "problem" is that my guild is like 300-400 people – most don’t work in our industry and many if not most don’t know anything about me other than the fact that I have a mage….
Joi Ito: *end
GreeterDan Godel: now, at SDForum earlier this year, you talked about a concept of playing WoW inside SL. Was that just wishful thinking, or do you think you could do it?
Joi Ito: Well… I think it would be hard to play WoW inside of SL…
Joi Ito: I think you can augment the WoW experience by doing stuff in here and maybe even link them
Joi Ito: we’re working on planning raids, but the problem is getting anyone to leave WoW to come to SL
GreeterDan Godel: lol
Joi Ito: But just as MUDs split and forked to MOOs for people who liked to make things more than they liked to kill and compete
Joi Ito: I think that that SL and WoW have very different roles in our lives
Joi Ito: WoW is a shared activity upon which you build a layer of social and other interactions….
Joi Ito: SL allows more of your creativity to be built into the environment and I think appeals to a very different part of our mind…
Joi Ito: *end
GreeterDan Godel: can you imagine a situation where big companies will begin land-rushing into WoW or other MMOs? the way they are in SL?
Joi Ito looks around
Joi Ito: I think they already are
Joi Ito: I think there is a huge SL buzz going on right now
Joi Ito: Generally this is a good thing
Joi Ito: but I think it is still a bit too difficult to use for the masses
Joi Ito: I think that industry folks like you guys at CNET and more researchy things like IBM research can do a lot in here
Joi Ito: plus music and other
Joi Ito: plus music and other youthy things
Joi Ito: but I don’t think we’ll see a anaylyst call for SBC in here for awhile *end
Joi Ito: but I didn’t answer yoru question
Joi Ito: I think it’s really hard for companies to go into WoW because you can’t really put anything there from the outside
Joi Ito: and Blizz doesn’t really like the secondary market around the game
Joi Ito: and I think it woudl be hard to retrofit the policy and technical changes that you would need to make
Joi Ito: so I could be wrong, but I’m not holding my breath for corporate participation in WoW
Joi Ito: Although I guess Ross Mayfield from SocialText is holding a press conference in WoW on Dec 1
Joi Ito: but that’s half a joke I think *end
GreeterDan Godel: You like to talk about the "Sharing economy." Can you explain that and why you think it’s important?
Joi Ito: Well… it gets back to my earlier pont about sharing
GreeterDan Godel: oops…you like to talk about the sharing economy. what is it, and why is it important?
Joi Ito: I think that a lot of sharing is being and will be hampered by laws and technology… and things like DRM
Joi Ito: When I say "sharing economy"… part of it is about the business of helping people share
Joi Ito: like Flickr, Google, Second Life
Joi Ito: It can be shown that many times in the past… things like Minitel or Delphi… all thought people wanted to consume produced content… when in fact when they rolled out their services it was the communication an sharing parts that people used the most
Joi Ito: the idea of the "sharing ecomomy" is to show that "sharing" isn’t about being a communist or taking value from the economy and giving it away
Joi Ito: many people in Hollywood equate "sharing" with "stealing"
Joi Ito: my point is that there is a whole business of helping people create and share content… and an argument that this sharing economy is big and important is key to getting the support of the "capitalists"
Joi Ito: Lessig argues this well
Joi Ito: but there are many points in history where we had to take rights and property away from people toallow new businesses or economies to deelop
Joi Ito: fly over rights of landholders to allow airlines to develop
Joi Ito: the ability to take photos without asking permission to allow amateur photography to develop
Joi Ito: it isn’t always the case that protecting the property of property owners is "good for business"
Joi Ito: we are creating lots of technology to protect content rights and prevent sharing… but it’s important to think about how sharing can help the economy and how hurting sharing can hurt it
Joi Ito: of course, it’s not all about money
Joi Ito: but having a market driven component of a socically important position is always good
Joi Ito: when electric vehicles were first introduced… all of the car companies tried to discredit it and stop it
Joi Ito: but when the first EV1 trials in California showed that people liked them, the car companies started developing full speed
Joi Ito: and we didn’t have to argue with them any more
Joi Ito: so the arugment about the sharing economy is part of a larger movement to make a commons of free culture where we are participants and research, content, and democracy are not left up to large organizations and people in power *end
GreeterDan Godel: we’ll take some audience questions now. But before we do, I’d just like to remind everyone that if you’d like to join the CNET Networks group, it’s a good way to find out about these talks
GreeterDan Godel: first up…
GreeterDan Godel: harpo geiger asks: in 2005, you joined the board of the Open Source Initiative, which gives official open-source status to licenses. how big a problem is the profusion of open-source licenses, and how much progress has the OSI made in reducing the number of those licenses?
Joi Ito: So… some say that there are over 500 Open Source licenses
GreeterDan Godel: of those licenses?
Joi Ito: There is a group working on the issue of license proliferation… which is a bad thing(tm)
Joi Ito: Various companies and groups are now buying into this idea
Joi Ito: and Intel, for instance has deprecated their license
Joi Ito: we still need to do a lot of work, but as you can imagine… there is a lot of emotion an ego involved in the licenses
Joi Ito: and getting people to give up their vanity licenses and stuff is quite difficult
Joi Ito: but I think we’re getting through and making some progress… and at Creative Commons, we’re trying as well at the content layer…. *end
GreeterDan Godel: lIHd Sellery: I would like to ask joi if he thinks traditional copyright as articulated in much western legislation is outdated?
Joi Ito: I hope so… Also, we are proposing at CC the notion of license federation
Joi Ito: so that you can group content together in substantially similar licenses… *end
Joi Ito: I think copyright is outdated
Joi Ito: basically… copyright in the physical world… is a very limited thing…
Joi Ito: it doesn’t affect you showing someone a book, how you read a book, how you sell a book you own… because it involves only making copies…
Joi Ito: which used to be expensive and cumbersome
Joi Ito: on the Net, every time you view a web page, you are making a copy
Joi Ito: and every activity that inolves content involves a lot of copying and mixing of stuff
Joi Ito: this screws up copyright but also allows copyright to significantly screw us up
Joi Ito: by extending the ability of copyright to influence andcontrol a signfiicant portion of our online activities just because every step we take we are "copying" something
Joi Ito: CC is trying to work inside of the current copyright regime to provide choice, show people the value of sharing and do what we can
Joi Ito: but in the long run, I think we need to redo copyright broadly
Joi Ito: but I think this will take awhile and will probably happen after the people in power are all Internet Gen people
Joi Ito: I’ve had long arguments with politicians about online copyright who have never used computers… they will not understand why we need to do what we do…. *end
GreeterDan Godel: Spin Martin: question: what do you think of the recent comment by the head of sony world wide entertainment saying that the strategy for the playstation 3 is inspired by second life — user generated content.. is this the step to gett us to the place where we can build our own nations in azeroth?
Joi Ito: Well… I blogged about this a bit…
Joi Ito: I think there is a recognition of "Consumer Generated Content" as a phenomenon
Joi Ito: but it’s sort of fake sharing… fishbowl sharing…
Joi Ito: that is happening
Joi Ito: people will start trying to make products that appear to allow you to share and create, but within boundaries that are created to protect the content makers…
Joi Ito: Like rides in Disneyland
Joi Ito: and while they may be better than before
Joi Ito: but I’m not sure whether big content companies will really "get" user generated media and stuff… although I could be wrong.
Joi Ito: But it’s a very different culture I think
Joi Ito: and the good thing about SL is that some of the people there that I know definitely understand and support user control
Joi Ito: the basic idea that you can hold demostrations here and force Linden to change rules and stuff…
Joi Ito: this is the sort of stuff that scares companies, but shows people who "get it" that the users are involved
Joi Ito: having said that… I think there is a balance… Linden is still a venture backed company
Joi Ito: and at the end of the day has to compete and earn revenue
Joi Ito: so there is a limit to how open they can be
Joi Ito: On the other hand, open source versions of "stuff like this" like Croquet, have a harder time getting traction… *end
GreeterDan Godel: Rik Riel: Is the games industry getting consolidated in the same way that the movie, TV and radio industries are? What can be done to ensure a diversity of gaming companies and developers, instead of EA and other giants just eating up smaller game design shops?
Joi Ito: Well… While I love WoW and think that Blizzard has a great thing going, they really don’t understand or seem to care that much about the rest of the Internet
Joi Ito: there is no API, no integration of lots of things that could make WoW explode to another level…
Joi Ito: and I’m not sure they could control it enough to retain the assset that they have if they did that
Joi Ito: there is only so fast that WoW can evolve
Joi Ito: There is a great opportunity for Net savvy game companies and startups I think
Joi Ito: I think that the game developer world has been isolated and separated from the Net community and is sort of a parallel universe
Joi Ito: and I think EA and Blizzard still don’t really "grok" the Internet
Joi Ito: on the other hand, I think most Internet entrepreneurs underestimate the difficulty of making a good game
Joi Ito: but with more people playing video games, I think the literacy of the Internet community to games is increasing and I see piles of MMORPG business plans these days
Joi Ito: so I think there is an opporutnity for new players…
GreeterDan Godel: it’s amazing that someone who doesn’t grok the internet can build a billion dollar franchise. Like you say, Blizzard is leaving a huge amt of potential on the table right now
Joi Ito: and it’s not all about graphics anymore… alhtough it obviously helps. 😉 *end
GreeterDan Godel: well, we should probably wrap this up and let joi get going…maybe one more question? got time for that, joi?
Joi Ito: sure
GreeterDan Godel: snowchyld Gray asks: do we get DKP for this?
Joi Ito: haha… for people who don’t know… DKP is Dragon Kill Points… a legacy from Everquest… but used by many guilds in WoW for earning points to get the right to receive loot during large raids
Joi Ito: unfortunately, while I am the guild leader of our guild, DKP is handled by our raid leader, Persimmon so I can’t give DKP for coming to this talk…. *end
Joi Ito: but thanks everyone for coming. 😉 I’ll give you conjured water if you come to Eitrigg…
Joi Ito: Snow is on my guild yes. 😉
GreeterDan Godel: one audience member would like to know where they can send you business plans 😉
Joi Ito: oh, no. I don’t know Leeroy, but I I think there is a bit of Leeroy in all of us. ;-P
Joi Ito: hmm… well I’m not actively looking at business plans these days. 😉 but you can send them to Fumi Lurra sitting there on the left. he
lIHd Sellery: Thanks Joi, good talk.
Joi Ito: thanks
GreeterDan Godel: well, i want to thank joi very much for joining us today
GreeterDan Godel: it was great
moo Money: we love you, Joi!
Joi Ito: kek
GreeterDan Godel: and thank you all for coming, as well
GreeterDan Godel: hopefully, you can stick around and mingle for a few minutes, but if not, we understand
Joi Ito: Interactive Business Plans would be fun… business plans with users, revenue and a running service even better. 😉
Joi Ito: Ok… heading back to Eitrigg now. I’m Jonkichi and Inbajin there if anyone wants to "play" ;-P
GreeterDan Godel: thanks again!
Joi Ito: /wave
You: thanks Joi
Fumi Lurra: Thanks Joi!