mateo-vrbnjak-nCU4yq5xDEQ-unsplashIt’s always risky to overgeneralize, but broadly speaking it’s far more fun to be a kid than an adult. Sure, adults have things like money and cars and the freedom to do as they please within reason, but there’s also the crushing responsibility that tends to dampen that freedom. 

In reading about businesses, particularly in the tech sector, I’ve found it useful to apply that framework to the companies as they appear in the news. Facebook and YouTube and others were once kids, relatively free to get away with whatever on their platforms because they were yet relatively small and were willing to permit just about anything in the name of growth; as they became adults, they had responsibility forced upon them in the form of moderation and copyright reporting as others took notice of what was showing up on their sites. 

Those companies were among the first, but they certainly won’t be the last, as others experience their own growing pains. Take Roblox, a gaming platform that allows users to create their own games and play games made by others. Given that description, it wouldn’t be a shock to learn that users are putting copyrighted songs onto the platform, nor would it be surprising to learn that the music industry has taken notice and legal action. 

The National Music Publishers' Association is suing Roblox for what it claims is the platform’s permissiveness when it comes to allowing songs to be used without license, and perhaps even its encouragement. The association alleges that what enforcement of restriction of copyrighted material exists is lax at best, and offset by loopholes that permit users to work around restrictions by omitting artists’ names. The suit further asserts that such permissive practices condition kids to see music piracy as a viable and acceptable option, although you wonder whether the concern is for the moral rectitude of the children or simply the future revenue stream they represent.

Roblox of course said the right things in response — namely, that they of course don’t tolerate copyright infringement and are saddened and hurt and disappointed over the lawsuit, and likely more than a little nervous. And they of course might be trying to do the work of keeping copyrighted material off of the platform; it’s up to the courts to adjudicate who did what wrong, if anyone. Mainly Roblox is learning the lesson that other companies with big platforms and millions of users have, which is that it’s hard to wrangle something when it reaches that size, despite any intentions you might have. 

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