I wasn't aware of it, but the entire film industry, as we know it today, started in a way very similar to how we're operating today as unlicensed FM broadcasters. It seems the 'owner' of the equipment that made and showed movies at the time had a monopoly that he actively enforced. This man was, interestingly, Thomas Edison.

Here's an excerpt from a book I'm reading by Lawrence Lessig called Free Culture (how big media uses technology and the law to lock down culture and control creativity). It's fairly short and extremely telling:
Chapter four: "Pirates"

"If "piracy" means using the creative property of others without their permission, if "if value, then right" is true, then the history of the content industry is a history of piracy. Every important sector of 'big media' today, film, records, radio and cable TV, was born of a kind of piracy so defined. The sonsistent sotry is how last generation's pirates join this generation's conutry club, until now.

the film industry of Hollywood was built by fleeing pirtes. Creators and directors migrated from the East Coast to California in the early twentieth centruy in part to escape controls that patents granted the inventor of filmmaking, Thomas Edison. These controls were exercised through a monopoly 'trust', the motion pictures patents company, and were based on thomas Edisons creative property- patents. Edison formed the MPPC to exercise the rights this creative property gave him, and the MPPC was serious about the ctonrol it demanded. As one commentator tells one part of the story:

"A January 1909 dedline was set for all companies to comply with the license. By February, unlicensed outlaws, who referred to themselves as independents (hmmm.. sound a little like unlicensed radio operators?) protested the trust and carried the business without submitting to the Edison monopoly. In the summer of 1909 the independent movement was in full swing, with producers and theater owners using 'illegal' equipment and imported film stock to create their own underground market.

With the country experiencing a tremendous expansion in the number of nickelodeons, the Patents Company reacted to the independent movement by forming a strong-arm subsidiary known as the General Film Company to block the entry of non-licensed independents. With coercive tactics that ahve become legendary, General Film confiscated unlicensed equipment, discontinued product supply to theaters which showed unlicensed films and, effectively monopolized distribution with th eacquisition of all US film exchanges, except for the one owned by the independent William Fox who defied the Trust even after his license was revolked'.

The Napsters of those days, the "independents" were companies like Fox. And no less than today, these independents were vigorously resisted. "Shooting was disrupted by machinery stolen, and 'accidents' resulting in the loss of negatives, equipment, buildings and sometimes life and limb frequently occurred". That led the independents to flee the East Coast. California was remote enough from Edison's reach that filmmakers there could pirate his inventions without fear fo the law. And the leaders of Hollywood filmaking, Fox most prominently, did just that. Of course California grew quickly, and the effective enforement of federal law eventually spread west. But because patents grant the patent holder a truly 'limited' monopoy (just seventeen years at the time:, by the time enough federal marchals appeared, the patent had expired. A new industry had been born, in part, from piracy of Edison's createve property.
Wow... have to think on this more, but there are many storie's like this in this book. It appears that most of the folks, including radio, did something similar to get started. Primarily by ignoring or defying the existing 'authority' and doing what they considered the right thing.

And free radio, today, is no different.



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