It May be Too Much, Too Late for Content Providers Finally Trying to Tame the Internet; a Fresh Approach is Needed
[The following appears as an “Insider Views” commentary on Intellectual Property Watch]
Have copyright holders become their own worst enemies?
Poorly drafted bills in the U.S. Senate and Congress designed to curb music and other Internet piracy, in some cases by holding information aggregators who enable it responsible, is fueling a new wave of anger towards lawmakers and copyright holders.
SOPA, Stop Online Piracy Act, and PIPA, The Protect IP Act, will need to be heavily reworked if they are to pass and be accepted.
Part of the problem is that for the past 20 years or so the music industry failed to successfully enforce its copyrights on the Internet and curb piracy from Asia. Now, experiencing the desperation of a dying industry, it believes it must do something. They reason that even the Wild West was tamed, eventually. A generation of file-sharing listeners and content users does not agree. There is fear that any intervention in the Internet or restriction is a potential threat to individual freedoms and will promote spying and stifle innovation. Many believe that controls do not have to play out that way.
In my not-so-humble opinion the Internet — and social networks in particular– can and should have some borders. Rampant abuses, not just to copyright holders but individuals’ personal information, have been swept under the rug. It’s difficult to say what form the oversight should take, or how much is onerous, but the current situation is dangerous and too important to ignore.
The film and book publishing industries are not far behind the foibles of the music business. Google has tried to post all books and force blanket agreements on authors, great for readers and even some writers, but not for those who live by book sales. For better or worse content-capturing or file sharing has become to many an acceptable way of life, and piracy is now simply the new technology doing its digital thing — not.
Enablers or Pirates?
Some say content providers need new business models that incorporate innovative technologies and the current culture. I’m not so sure the problem is that easily resolved. Sweden-based Spotify, for example, relies on copyrighted content deals negotiated directly with the labels and some artists. Not all agree that is they best place or deal for their content. Eventually, they may not have much of a choice. The major recording artists at least may have some bargaining leverage, the lesser names not. The French, ironically, have been tougher on file sharing than most countries, possibly because of its history of respect for artists and innovators.
Part of the problem in the U.S. is that (1) it is the largest content provider, (2) expectations have changed from years of failed enforcement, (3) content can be expensive, and (4) today, well established, new economy information aggregators and social networks are o.k. bending privacy and ownership rules. (Their advertisers don’t seem to mind.)
Google, Facebook, YouTube and other business models depend on compelling but highly accessible content to prosper. So, to put it crudely, it’s sort of Hollywood (content providers) vs. Silicon Valley (device and distribution owners).
While there have been attempts to work together, the fundamental differences between old and new economy businesses have kept them apart. A few artists may benefit from the free Internet visibility which may support their (paid) performances or what they can sell or license; most will not.
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Below are links to several stories and a video which help to put into context the controversy over Internet piracy and regulation. Caveat: They provide good perspective but should be digested with a hefty grain of salt.
Remember CNN-Money is owned by content provider Time Warner and YouTube distributed is owned by Google. Wikipedia has a somewhat similar perspective to Google.
– Short video: “What Is SOPA?”
– Anti-Regulation: The Wikipedia perspective.
– Story from CNN-Money: “SOPA Explained: What it is and Why it Matters”
– From the Wall Street Journal: “What is SOPA Anyway? A Guide to Understanding the Online Piracy Bill”
– Astute Op-Ed (please read this): “It’s a mistake to think the danger is from big media choking the Internet.”