Friday, April 24, 2009

The end of piracy?

(via ORG-discuss list) Pirates, pirates, pirates. it's all there is in the news lately. Pirates in Somalia, pirates in Sweden, pirates online, pirates in culture. We have pirates jumping out of our breakfast cereals it seems. Last week saw the pinnacle of hyperbolic coverage of piracy of the Internet sort when the Pirate Bay operators were sentenced to a year in jail. We were promised by talking heads on TV that the ruling would be the beginning of the end of internet piracy, and that a new and happy future where everyone respects copyright law is finally within reach.

But then reality got on the way again. First it was a report from Norway that informed us of something we already knew anecdotally, and that is that teenagers who download music (legally or illegally) are 10 times more likely to pay for music than those who do not. In other words, the next generation of music consumers is downloading. This is the market, deal with it.

Then Bram Cohen gave an interview to The Register (I know, I know), where I think he gave the most insightful view of why there will always be a surplus in music production:

"Music has a bigger problem, it's that people want to make it. It's the peacocks tail. The reason guys make music is that they want to get laid. So men are usually willing to pay a lot of money in the hope of getting laid. Anything that helps you get laid with amazing regularity is something you would expect a tremendous oversupply of. So we have unbelievable amounts of music. People pay a lot to learn how to play music and it's ridiculous to expect people to make money off it. Normally if you want to make money you do something no one wants to do."
Must learn to play an instrument... but I digress. So, there will always be an offer surplus, and those who consume the most are also the ones you have been fighting during the last 10 years. Moreover, another study shows that users view P2P subscription services favourably, particularly if it comes with their ISP. This at the same time as yet another effort to try to sneak in three-strikes into European regulations have been unsuccessful.

A picture is starting to emerge, so here is some free advice for the music industry. Instead of spending an inordinate amount of money in pursuing a failed business model, why not look for other avenues? Copyright owners have been pursuing P2P providers for too long, and there is no indication whatsoever that they will be able to eliminate file-sharing through the courts, as another service will simply take the place of the previous one. This is why copyright industries have been pushing for the unpopular "three-strikes-and-you're out" strategy, because it leaves enforcement in the hands of the intermediaries. However, why not make them partners in your business and allow some form of blanket licensing scheme by which ISPs charge a higher broadband premium service with a download package. The artist gets the money, the ISPs geta cut (and do not have to enforce a nightmarish policy), and the user gets what they want.

Too much of a happy ending? Unrealistic utopian wishful thinking? To quote a great man, you may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.

1 comment:

John H said...

Quoting John Lennon? Without a paid-for licence? You THIEF!!!

And don't give me any of that nonsense about "insubstantial parts" or whatever. That's just legalistic nonsense designed to get in the way of effective copyright enforcement.

Now out of my way while I cut off your internet connection...