Friday, August 29, 2008

How to stop piracy?

I think that everyone can agree that one of the problems with piracy is that it may have negative effect on some musicians. There is evidence that the music industry has become more reluctant to sign new acts and is relying on old names to stay afloat; and some small and medium artists have seen their works pirated indiscriminately. While we have become immune to pleas against music downloading from big names in the industry, it seems like the new marketplace is in turmoil. for example, CD sales continue to drop in the States, while they seem to go up in the UK. Similarly, P2P seems to affect established names, while it may benefit smaller acts. Meanwhile, Radiohead continues to innovate with their forward-thinking delivery methods.

What to do? It seems evident that the big stick strategy is not working. P2P enforcement is uneven, it has not stopped infringers, and most importantly, it seems to be targeting innocent users. Similarly, DRM is not the solution (mini-rant: whoever thought that DVD regions were a good idea? I had to spend hours hacking my MacBook's DVD protection to watch a legitimately purchased copy of War Games!).

One thing is clear to me. While in Costa Rica, I have been struck by the vibrant local music industry. Some artists are doing reasonably well for the market, including the amazing Malpaís. While this group is very popular with the download generation, their records are selling remarkably well. Apparently, buying th record has become an important part of being a Malpaís fan. The solution then has not been one of enforcement, it has been one of social awareness. I put forwrd then that the solution to piracy is to empower the consumer, just like Radiohead is doing. There are other schemes to invest in new bands, proving that the solution is in empowering the fan base.

I'm a bit tired, so I will not be issuing a pithy one-liner today.

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