How to kill a dinosaur in 3 easy steps

Register or Login to like
open source button on keyboard

In 2000 the punk rock band NOFX released an album called Pump Up The Valuum. When I first heard the CD, I immediately took to the song "Dinosaurs Will Die." (Warning--contains explicit lyrics) Shortly thereafter I got into the open source movement, and I cannot count how many times the lyrics from that song have stuck out in my head. For those unfamiliar, the song deals with the (hoped) downfall of the old model of corporatized marketing and selling music and the potential rise of something new and personal.

After reading the articles on Lawrence Lessig's fight against ASCAP and ASCAP's subsequent denial of an open debate with the founding member of Creative Commons, I couldn't help but think of that song again. So using it as a starting point, I have crafted a guide for killing dinosaurs of the proprietary industry. It's actually quite easy and can be applied to everything from technology to arts and anything in between.

Step 1: Recognize a tired or failing proprietary business model, aka the dinosaur.

Dinosaurs, despite their size, are often crafty and manipulative. So you must pay attention if you hope to hunt them down. Using NOFX as an example, their record label, Fat Wreck Chords, is still a member of the RIAA against Fat Wreck's permission. (As before this link contains explicit content. Hey, it's punk rock, what are you going to do?) In this example, the dinosaur has done the work for us by fighting to control something they don't understand. So all you have to do is look for their tracks and traits.

Many times the dinosaurs focus on the weakest prey: their customers and consumers. For example, as a paying user of most proprietary software, users must repeatedly prove that they actually bought the product. If you acquire the same software in a less legal fashion, those components are stripped out, and the user has a much more elegant experience. If you purchase a movie on DVD or Blu-Ray, you are often forced to sit through both commercial advertisements for other movies and public service announcements detailing the dangers of "pirating" films before you can finally watch the movie you paid for. However, an illegal copy of the film gets straight to the flick with no advertisements or annoyances.

Music downloaded from many legal sites is encumbered with digital rights management that prevents true ownership of a product by the consumer or is of a low quality bitrate. Yet illegal sources give options of multiple bitrates, versions from other countries that include extra tracks not found in stores, and, most importantly, the files are 100% DRM free.

These actions are the signs of an industry that has lost all control and needs to be put out of its misery. However, we still need to find ways to receive and market the goods and art we love, which brings me to...

Step 2: Discover a better business or creation model.

Again, don't worry, this is much easier than it sounds. The dinosaur takes care of all the hard work. The easiest clue is to look for frivolous lawsuits or public FUD attacks. For example, the fight that SCO gave Linux or the recent attack on Creative Commons and their bretheren by ASCAP. If the dinosaurs are attacking something, then likely those giants have a reason to be scared that their old model is becoming obsolete. And if there's one thing we know about dinosaurs, it's that they're slow and carry a ton of momentum. Much like changing course with an ocean liner, it's not an easy or quick process. So rather than adapt to change and learn from the swifter and more agile models, they fight. The very consumers they are hurting are likely turning to a new, better model. This model is probably the very same one that caused the dinosaurs to attack in the first place. Like rats on a sinking ship (second boat analogy in almost as many sentences, sorry about that), no matter how many of their peers they step on and claw at to try to remain above water, they are only delaying the inevitable. It's a scary cycle that is only getting worse. Something needs to be done, which leads to the final step.

Step 3: Go for the kill.

The easiest way to kill a dinosaur is to stop feeding it. If we can start supporting these grassroots movements, they will gain the traction needed to stamp out the monoliths that control the arts and products we all love. It's already coming to fruition with success stories like Linux and Wikipedia. It just takes the proper people to get the word out and prove a new method is viable by returning the ownership and power to those that deserve it--to the ones creating and the ones receiving the product or art.

Begin investing in DRM-free music, movies, and software. Avoid purchasing those encumbered versions of the exact same works. If an encumbered or closed version is the only one available, request to the owners that this change. Pay attention to sites like Jamendo and Magnatune.

Alternatively, you can give the prey teeth. With the upcoming fifteenth anniversary of Jerry Garcia's death, I can't help but be reminded of a movement he was a part of well before it had a real name. The Grateful Dead were infamous for allowing their audiences to not only record their live performances, but to share them freely as long as they weren't sold for a profit. If it sounds familiar, today this might be licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike or similar licenses. But the point is, if you can maintain control over the work you create and fully decide how to distribute that work, the word will quickly spread. The Grateful Dead are still huge thanks in part to this idea of sharing. Artists are still doing it today, and it can work, but again we have to empower those creating and making a living off of these types of licenses in order to progress it. So as an artist or programmer, consider licensing under a more open mechanism if possible.

We also need to remember that history can easily repeat itself. Dinosaurs became extinct because they failed to adapt. We can't let the same thing happen to the open source, open content movement. Luckily, due to the licensing terms that open licenses provide, it makes it much easier to remain fluid. It's a proven model that works. We just have to reach the masses. So do us a favor, share the stories and the works you create. Get the word out and help put an end to tired models that do nothing but encumber everything they touch and line the pockets of those who have no appreciation for what they are so tightly controlling. Dinosaurs will die.

User profile image.
Travis Kepley is a Senior Instructor at Red Hat where he helps employees, partners and customers understand how Open Source Software can create a better IT and business infrastructure. Travis started at Red Hat in January of 2008 as a Technical Support Engineer before becoming a Solutions Architect prior to moving to his current role.


Hi !
I'm French and I've made a quick translation of the article because I really enjoyed reading it, I just thought I would let you know. I'm going to share the text on ubuntu-fr forum (and give a link to the original work of course ;-)).
Best regards

Sylvain LE MENN

I had a lot of fun writing it so I'm glad you enjoyed reading it. Ubuntu is another example of helping to get wins out there for the open guys. Glad to hear it's making its rounds.

Feel free to pass the link to the French translation here so that we can let others read it as well!


Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.