Having read all the different arguments and seeing the merit of them all and agreeing and disagreeing with them all simultaneously, I came to one conclusion - I'm an amoral, indecisive, fencesitter, a relativist. I figure I get that out of the way before anyone accuse me of those things.
The rant itself, a good rant, can be seen as the same as the rest of the reactions these days against RIAA, MPAA, big media corporations, etc., by people who are more technically saavy and are in the somewhat loosely formed idealistic circles that we find on K5 and Slashdot (no, I'm not going to refer to them as the 'other site'). But that's my point of view of course.
What I am saying is that it is popular in the circle of people who are reading this rant to bash RIAA and MPAA and denounce the big greedy corporations. Why? Perhaps, as one poster pointed out, we are (as we love to think) the intellectual technical elite and not the mindless mass of sheep that is the rest of America/world. Is there any truth to that? I suppose, but pretty presumptious, I think.
RIAA and MPAA and big corporations - good or bad? Neither. Both. It depends on your perspective of course. I would like to think that the world is not simple as that. Without these companies, would the world be a better place? Maybe, but I think it's likely not going to be the case. Ignoring that if not them, then someone else would do the same (let's assume no big corporate entity like RIAA or MPAA exist). I think there would be chaos. Popular culture, as low-brow as it is, aiming for the lowest common denominator, is very important. The society, the people, the masses, it's a very complex system, and it would be foolish for us to pick out one little thing and think that we understand the problem and how to solve it. Popular culture aims to synchronize people like language. As someone pointed out, it's important to have common experience, because otherwise, it is difficult to relate. If your friends and the circle that you associate with watch a lot of TV and don't do much of anything else, and you are the opposite, you would have a more difficult time relating to those people. It's also the same reason why fraternities have hazing rituals.
Popular culture has it's place, and it is up to the mass media corporations to serve it up. We, as individuals, have the freedom to choose participate or opt-out. I personally have watched very little TV in the last 3-4 years (mostly because I don't have cable and I like watching channels like Food Network, Discovery, TLC, etc.) I wish I can watch more TV, but quite frankly, I don't have the time now either (the Internet has taken over. I sit and read all the time).
Now, I am involved in a different sort of popular culture - K5 and Slashdot. And please do not tell me that they are not popular culture - the only way they are not is if they are not successful and no one visits. The very popularity of Slashdot is the very reason that (I think) the quality of posts have gone down. It is lowering of the bar by the masses. You can't stop the power of the masses.
There are other reasons why I think that the whole thing is not simple. Economic reasons being one of them. Whether middlemen or record label execs or stochholders are getting most of the money is irrelevant - they move money. Money is what we use to live and survive. People's energy (artists, musicians, actors, anybody) is harvested, leverage, condensed into money, transferred, hoarded, exchanged, so that all of our lives go on. That the RIAA and MPAA hoard, spend, overcharge and exploit is not surprising. They necessarily do so to survive (as entities). All corporate entities are necessarily, though not consciously greedy and selfish. They follow rules and regulations that make them that way. They want to survive and get more energy (money) than they spend, just like a real organism does. It's not necessarily any individual's fault. If you worked at a company, you want the company to do well so you can do well. You and your co-workers do everything you can to ensure that, and in the process, the law of masses will dictate that the collective will do things that is out of any individual's control. So it is with these large entities. You say they are evil? Well, sure, if survival instincts should be considered evil.
Should something be done about all of this? Sure, if you think so. But I think that it's already happening. The Internet is facilitating the mobilization of the power of the masses. Disconnected individuals are weaker and easier to bend to the will of those with power. Well connected individuals form a mass that is difficult to stop and the collective consciousness will ultimately dictate the outcome.
Gee, I wish I have more time to gather and organize my thoughts. This was just a lot of rambling. But I think I'm trying to say is, geez, you guys sure get worked up a lot over these things.