Freshly Squeezed Op-Ed: Et tu, Apple?

Aug 1, 2016 | OpEd | 0 comments

Intellectual Property Rights. As technology grows and grows, the aforementioned dissolves ever faster.

Witness the plagiarism allegations at the recent RNC in Cleveland. Those involved merely shrugged at the suggestion of its importance. But I digress. This is a technology blog.

I would like to address as how this applies to Apple’s recent purchase of the rights to ‘Carpool Karaoke.’

Over the years we have come to accept that both hardware and software are going to receive tweaks from numerous manufacturers and developers who will find ways to improve and differentiate existing technologies. Laptops, all-in-one computers, word processors, and the like are going to be manufactured by various companies. Mainly because no one can claim that they invented these items of which we can find many iterations.

Sure, you can find who created the first one, but they’re such ubiquitous items that no one could reasonably expect to obtain compensation. Does Kleenex receive a slice of the profits from every company that manufactures facial tissue?

This brings me to something intrinsically bound to this situation – Intellectual Property Rights. For example, surely you’ve noticed the watermarks on stock photography. This is to claim that you are the photographer or company who owns/created that photo. Unless you have paid for its use or have given proper accreditation to the creator(s), you shouldn’t be using it.

Let’s use George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord’ trial as another example. Harrison had to pay a hefty sum because it was decided by a judge that he was guilty of “subconscious plagiarism” of the song “He’s So Fine” by The Chiffons. Therefore, it was decided that he had illegally used their work, their intellectual property. (Ironically, Harrison later said that he was trying to evoke the sound of “Oh Happy Day” by The Edwin Hawkins Singers.)

Now, let’s look at the lineage of “Carpool Karaoke,” who Apple has just purchased the rights to from CBS. It is an extremely popular segment on ‘The Late Late Show with James Corden,” an English comedian and actor in films and on stage. During the segments, he and a special guest do as the title suggests – perform karaoke while driving about Hollywood.

But he was not the first to use the concept of producing entertainment from within a moving vehicle. I present you my next example – “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee”, an extremely popular podcast produced by Jerry Seinfeld and funded by a major automotive manufacturer. Hosted by Crackle, each episode features Jerry in a classic, showroom restored automobile. He then picks up fellow comedians to take out to get some coffee plus trade stories of past incidences in their careers and their theories on how comedy works. Roughly half of the show is Jerry and his guest conversing while driving in the car. An entertaining show, to be sure.

But neither was he the first to utilize the concept. In fact, we now arrive at the creator who initially conceived the concept, Robert Llewellyn. Sci-fi aficionados are most familiar with his work as the android Kryten on the immensely popular British comedy sci-fi show “Red Dwarf,” a show whose worldwide legion of fans refuse to let lapse. In fact, approximately twenty years after its supposed final episode, there have been several one-off specials continuing the storyline. And now it has also been brought back into production this year for two brand new seasons, picking up the storyline where it left off!

The original concept of “Carpool” was that Llewellyn would drive someone to their destination as he carried on a conversation with them. Passengers ranged from popular British stars such as Stephen Fry and Sir Patrick Stewart to our own Andy Ihnatko (I kid you not!). This podcast ran for years.

And Llewellyn WAS the podcast. He was the creator, the producer, the interviewer/host, the driver, and the entire production crew. He rigged the cameras, the mics, and in the end, edited the show and uploaded it. Truly a one-man production, both as a labor of love and to see how far he could push the aesthetic envelope within this ever growing technology.

A little while back, “Carpool” went on hiatus for two reasons. First, Llewellyn was busy recording two new seasons of the aforementioned “Red Dwarf” (premiering this fall on Dave – lucky Brits.) Second, he started up a second podcast that began as a show for reviewing electric vehicles but has since evolved into a show about all sorts of technology using or producing renewable energy. It’s entitled “Fully Charged” and I highly recommend it. (In the interest of full disclosure, I pay a monthly stipend to Patreon in order to support “FullyCharged.”)

My gripe is two-fold. First, Robert Llewelyn needs to be recognized for creating this genre single handedly, be it through remuneration or simple acknowledgment.

I follow Llewellyn on Twiter. When Seinfeld’s podcast first surfaced, legions of Llewellyn’s followers insisted that he take some form of action to rectify this slight. He declined, reasoning that this is just how things work out sometimes.

The second half and main part of my gripe is in regards to Apple’s purchasing the rights to “Carpool Karaoke.” Now, Apple has had a long history of always arriving to the technological party late but for good reason. This afforded them the time to sit back, see how people interacted with their devices, discover what they disliked and what they desired in said devices, construct their version which satisfied these demands, and then sell it to an ever salivating market.

But this is something entirely different. We have the largest corporation in our solar system not sitting back and creating their own variation of an existing product but profiting off of the intellectual work of someone else. This is the same corporation that constantly airs commercials demonstrating how easily you can create your own artistic creations utilizing their hardware. Yet are they planning on giving some remuneration to the Llewellyn, the creator of the very genre that they will be profiting from?

To be fair, I don’t normally see the best in business people. And in my experience, I have been rarely proven wrong. I hope that in this case, I am.

©2016 Frank Petrie


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