I was reading on the train this morning (I don’t think I could go back to commuting without mobile internet!), the BBC have reported on a leaked draft paper from the UK Government published by the Times, proposing to force ISP’s to take action against illegal downloaders with a three strikes and out style system. As has been pointed out, the government, seem to be ignoring the serious privacy implications this has for internet access and what would seem an insurmountable task for the ISP’s to economically and practically undertake. I’ve got an image in my head of a satirical political cartoon showing an MPAA/RIAA figure pushing Gordon Brown along but anyway.
But anyway, aside from these points, the question is, are the media industries as a collective gradually responding better to consumer desires and the internet in general as a result of piracy? The rapid rise in piracy of music, films and television has left the industry models looking increasingly dated and almost ridiculous, indeed, if it could be charted it would correlate quite well with broadband uptake. They were left with choices, embrace, fight or ignore it, as we’ve seen, they’ve steadily fought it and probably thought after Napster that they could go back to sleep again.
In the last couple of years we’ve seen numerous press releases by the RIAA and MPAA citing the massive sales losses they’ve sustained as a result of piracy, the press has reported on numerous cases against kids, the elderly and mothers across America and elsewhere, in dubious attempts to deter the masses. Apple introduced iTunes and its worked fairly well with some debate, but that wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t the industries idea, that was Apple, and many of the other major online music stores have been third parties approaching the music industry not them reaching out to the consumer. The same sort of scenario has been playing out for video content with the same issues, indeed the upcoming pirate bay case, is seeing the founders gaining steady international notoriety as thieves and the worst of criminals in one light and justified and innocent in another.
Only really in the last year are we seeing perhaps the start of serious attempts at DRM free, decent (ish) quality music and video from the industry and this is encouraged in many ways by piracy (catering for the users so they don’t pirate the material). Its argued so much more now that piracy is slowly forcing the industry to respond better to the consumer, that piracy is a positive driving force for change and that it will eventually lead to a better solution.
Perhaps arguing that the end necessarily justifies the means is not an argument to start, but I do think its valid, the cost to the ISP’s who already have looming demand induced upgrade costs as well as the time and effort for the government to pass through legislation for this ultimatly means it will accomplish little. Others such as Michael Arrington have suggested that you make money from associated products and live events as opposed to the music but I’m far more inclined to agree with the general principles of Paul Glazowski’s rebuttal and in particular the “linear chicken and egg” analogy he makes in his first comment on his post, its unfortunate however to read in the comments a lack of understanding of the items value as opposed to its distribution costs.
As with most people I know, if I like music I’ll buy it, aside from anything else, I still prefer having a physical copy (maybe I’m getting old). I’m not advocating illegal downloads as such, however, piracy is giving the media industries a good kick down the path of progress.