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Lawyers, law firms and the new media

I walked out of Gnomedex last week knowing that the media as we know it today is going to change dramatically in the coming years. With the advent of citizen journalism via blogs, citizen broadcasting via audio podcasts and soon video podcasts, the public will pick and choose the information and entertainment they want, from who they want it, when they want it and on the type of appliance (PC, TV, cell phone etc) they want to receive it.

J.D. Lassica, always a thought leader in journalism, summed it up well.

As Adam Curry, an early VJ on MTV and key player in the development and promotion of Podcasting, noted in his keynote (at Gnomedex), “We are the media.” There’s no doubt about that now.

The consequences of that for public discourse loom large. That’s why, as I wrote my book (Darknet), I began focusing less on copyright law or the current bills before Congress and more on the long-term outlook for media culture.

The future of television is not about interactive commands that let you buy Jennifer Aniston’s sweater. It’s about putting a blasting cap to big media’s strangehold on our nightly viewing habits by opening up the television experience to the multitude of niche media that ordinary citizens are beginning to create.

The future of movies is not about digital delivery of Hollywood entertainment at the multiplex. It’s about instant access to Hollywood classics, new releases, indie fare and grassroots films, at any time, on any device.

The future of music is not about finding a silver-bullet DRM solution for secure delivery of megastar content. It’s about building new platforms for recommending and filtering thousands of new voices and creative talents that would never make it through the record labels’ sausage factory.

As the cost of the tools of media creativity continue to plummet and ease of use increases, millions more of us will begin taking part in the personal media revolution. And when that happens, as it inevitably will, the laws and structures built for the analog era — such as the DMCA’s provisions to prop up the business model of today’s music industry — will begin to totter, and then topple.

Lawyers have always been among the thought leaders in American society and have held the unique role of guardians of citizens’ legal rights. Lawyers who take advantage of today’s citizen journalism and broadcasting are going to carve out a niche and audience that could last for years.

Lawyers will no longer need to have PR people and fancy looks to get an audience via appearances on CNN, MSNBC or FoxTV. That’s exciting stuff for folks like me who have a face made for radio.