File this news story under “out of touch”.

Remember when Napster first came on the scene, and everyone in the music industry was in a great big hurry to shut it down?

Of course, they did shut it down successfully.

But then LimeWire came along, and Kazaa, and SoulSeek. And so on.

The music industry carried on trying to take each one down, guns-a-blazin, until finally someone at Apple had the bright idea that electronic music sharing wasn’t going anywhere, so the industry might as well try to get a piece of the pie.

Enter iTunes, and you know the rest of the story.

Sorry for the digression into recent music-sharing history, but I promise, it does relate.

See, my point is, the music industry couldn’t wrap their heads around the fact that things were changing, that people were listening to music in a different way. They couldn’t adapt, and to the extent that they could see the change coming, they could only see it as a threat. They couldn’t imagine that they might be able to co-exist with the change – or even profit from it.

I was reminded of the music industry’s war on MP3s when I read this story, about Ontario’s private coach companies attempting to shut down a popular rideshare website.

From the Globe and Mail story:

Bus line operators such as Trentway-Wagar Inc. – which launched the formal complaint against PickupPal – argue that Mr. Dewhirst’s company is facilitating the operation of an illegal transportation service. Last week the Ontario Highway Transport Board agreed and fined the company more than $11,000 for infractions of the Public Vehicles Act…

[A company representative] said Trentway-Wagar is not opposed to carpooling but simply wants all commercial operations offering public transportation to be treated equally.

Um… huh?

A website that links up drivers with passengers willing to chip in a few bucks for gas is suddenly an illegal transportation service?

Better lock up all the soccer moms who’ve ever shared rides too, while you’re at it.

The bus companies aren’t just desperate to save their (allegedly threatened) business, either. They, and the government board that’s just sided with them, appear to be completely unaware of the way technology has evolved around them:

At one point in the proceedings, Mr. Dewhirst had to explain to the board that an online forum is an Internet site where people can go to discuss a particular topic. In another instance, members of the board were flabbergasted when they suggested a change be made to PickupPal and Mr. Dewhirst offered to make the update on his computer right there in the room.

Ouch.

I don’t think I could name another more useless waste of government time, than sitting around trying to shut down ride-sharing forums – particularly with concerns about climate change pre-occupying much of the world. Shouldn’t the government actually be encouraging this sort of thing?

They may manage to take down PickupPal here in Ontario, but that won’t mean anything in the long run.

As PickupPal’s founder said in the story: “The government has been blindsided by the technology, and the world has changed around them.”

Photo by Drown (Creative Commons)