This is the first of a series of posts on how the internet is shaping our future. Imagine if a consortium of internet companies decided to buy out the music industry. Get rid of labels and sell music direct to consumers, cheaply. How might that change the nature of things?
New Zealand’s passing of copyright law this week has sparked a fresh round of intense debate and scrutiny on how to address the behaviour of a large number of New Zealanders on the internet who are illegally downloading music, movies and other content.
Many people either do not know they are downloading illegally or don’t feel they are doing anything wrong.
And for many, its the easiest way to get access to what they want to hear or watch.
Unfortunately, the creators of that content (the artists) miss out on payment. The traditional distributors of the content, the movie studios and music labels wield considerable influence in New Zealand and around the world in convincing governments to pass strict laws to prohibit filesharing. But they are slow to develop new ways to distribute their content easily and legally to people via the internet.
But they’re not slow to use their muscle to protect their outdated business models.
What do they expect people to do? The pressure is mounting as we’re all seeing by the intense reaction to the Copyright Law this week.
What if things were to change? Would the need for such copyright laws still be necessary if people could easily, legally and cheaply access what they wanted, when they wanted it.
Consider this, an extract from a piece written by UK-based open government and open source advocate Glynn Moody
… the music industry is economically quite small and unimportant compared to the computer industry. And yet somehow – through honed lobbying and old boy networks – it wields a disproportionate power that enables it to block innovative ideas that the online world wants to try.
On a rational basis, the music industry’s concerns would be dwarfed by those of the computer world, which is not just far larger, but vastly more important in strategic terms. But instead, the former gets to make all kinds of hyperbolic claims about the alleged “damage” inflicted by piracy on its income, even though these simply don’t stand up to analysis.
… how about if Google *did* buy the music industry? That would solve its licensing problems at a stroke. Of course, the anti-trust authorities around the world would definitely have something to say about this, so it might be necessary to tweak the idea a little.
How about if a consortium of leading Internet companies – Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Baidu, Amazon etc. – jointly bought the entire music industry, and promised to license its content to anyone on a non-discriminatory basis?
At the very least, the idea ought to send a shiver down the spine of the fat-cats currently running the record labels, and encourage them to stop whining so much just in case they make the thought of firing them all too attractive to the people whose lives they are currently making an utter misery….
It’s quite possible this is based on Google spin. But it’s certainly interesting to contemplate. I’d like to see a major shake-up in both industries.
And I think governments have a responsiblity to ensure that consumers are able to access content: music, movies, entertainment legally and in a competive environment where they have choice and fair prices. And where there is a thriving environment for the creators (those inside New Zealand). The debate needs to be about how we make that happen. Yes?