What I learned from The Social Network
I could honestly care less for Mark Zuckerberg. He built a social networking site that was originally popular for the allowance of egoism and stalking but now persists largely due to me-tooism and time wasting games. The fact that he has done this without charging users is pretty amazing. However, I do not know him personally and cannot assume much of anything regarding his goals. This is why I do not care for him.I do care for his plight. I saw the film The Social Network for the same reason many decided to shell out money for the story of a website – I am a member of Facebook. I was a member since it was TheFacebook and the first advertisement I received was on LiveJournal. The film brought to light a horrid travesty that exists in this country: intellectual property rights.
Did Zuckerberg steal the idea of Facebook from the devilishly handsome twins? (Fun fact: They were played by 1.5 performers. One guy’s face on two bodies, and you cannot tell.) It honestly does not matter. Zuckerberg created a site that exceeded the goals of the twins, and he did it from scratch. The original site consisted of his code and his ideas. His sweat and tears went into TheFacebook, which is why it bothers me that he had to give the twins money made from a free to use site.
Maybe there is information kept secret from public viewing and thus was not present in the dramatized version. Maybe there was some hard evidence that Zuckberberg stole from the twins. Maybe they provided some code. Maybe some of his code accidentally referred to the site he was building for them. One can only speculate.
But in the event that they almost successfully sued him over a mere idea, that is terrible. Almost every piece of media that exists today is built off of previous ideas. Some are glaringly obvious takes while others use ideas as a springboard. Should we sue for everything? And if we do, how much money do we deserve to win?
Which brings me to another potential bother: Would the twins have taken Zuckerberg to court if they had viewed TheFacebook merely as a service for connecting college students? No. The only reason they sued was because they saw the site as a commercially viable product. The point of suing for intellectual theft is not to reign in the idea. The point of suing is to redirect some flow of money. Preferably to oneself. Look at the record industry. Are they upset because you hurt Justin Timberlake’s feelings by downloading “Sexyback” or because they did not receive your money for it?
The highlight of the film is not the origin of a website people use several times a day. It is not the excellent soundtrack. It is not the superb script or acting. (Jesse Eisenberg finally proved himself to be more than the poor man’s Michael Cera. Cera is absolutely incapable of coming across as remotely douchebaggy.) The highlight is the focus on the American dream – having an idea that nets millions of dollars. It seems to me that few people create for the sake of creating. Capitalism has potentially destroyed art for the sake of art itself. That is why we have so much schlock out there that aims for the lowest common denominator.
Amusingly, The Social Network does not aim that low. Then again, it could afford not to with its built-in audience. It makes one wonder if the movie would have been made if the network did not have 500 million users who might be just curious enough to watch a film about Facebook. The film would have been extremely profitable if only 1% of the user base had decided to check it out.