Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Home Taping Is Killing Music!

Once upon a time, there was an industry group that went all out against tape-recording FM radio. They said it would kill record sales. They were wrong.

One thing that we have learned is that piracy is not a pricing issue. It’s a service issue,"
The easiest way to stop piracy is not by putting antipiracy technology to work. It’s by giving those people a service that’s better than what they’re receiving from the pirates.” - Gabe Newell, founder, Valve (owner of the STEAM service).

MegaUpload is dead. The repercussions to the online ecosystem of filesharing is huge, with cloud storage services reeling from the aftermath. Filesonic has gone 100% private (only uploaders can download their own files) while Uploaded.to has completely blocked US ip addresses.

The RIAA and MPAA have done it again. MegaUpload was profitable because bandwidth in this day and age is very cheap. Instead of rising to the challenge and providing legal alternatives, they have failed the industry as a whole and created alot of bad press about themselves. They lobbied their cause based on fraudulent, rediculous malrepersentations of the value of the work they claimed to represent. Case in point: In 2008, they valued each piece of media in a case against ThePirateBay at $382,353. Ok, so they only had 34 examples of copyright infringement in their lawsuit, but by extension, that would mean that throughout its existance, The Pirate Bay has stolen roughly 382 trillion. That's 382,000 billion... or 382,000,000 million, or 382,000,000,000,000. The total amount of dollars in existance is only around $10 trillion, and includes all the money in banks, investments, cash and coins.

So they went out of their way, and successfully lobbied the government to use brute force to takedown MegaUpload and even extradite a young kid who ran TVShack, a link sharing blog. Extradition by the way is usually reserved for criminals. All without SOPA or PIPA.

I dont support what MegaUpload or TVShack did, but the response was incomprehensible. What happened to the players in the financial crisis? Their business were not terminated (eg bringing a website down terminates it) and their properties were not seized! They got a fucking bailout while their execs retired on multimillion dollar bonuses from the previous year!

Guilty Before Trial?

Wasnt the United State of America all about liberty and the right to trial? What happened to innocent until proven guilty? Any half decent lawyer can come up with a convincing 76 page document about why X or Y is guilty if X or Y had no opportunity to defend themselves.

This wasnt some murder case where the defendants had to be locked away pending trial. We're talking about geeks here. Computer nerds. Flamboyant nerds none the less but nobody has been charged with hurting a fly. Taxpayer money was spent on an armed assault on a luxury mansion. Yup, NZ taxpayer money was spent for two helicopters worth of police to swarm the mansion. Now this isnt exactly a drug lord were talking about here... they were after a computer geek. Kim Dotcom (Megaupload's founder) was a bit big even by couch potato standards, but two swat teams? seriously?

The Megaupload and TVShack cases set a dangerous precedent. You could get extradited to the US and face 5 years in jail for sharing a Michael Jackson song. The guy who killed MJ got only 4 years.

The Future of Media

Has piracy really harmed revenue as the RIAA and MPAA claim? No. People still buy  physical media, and online sales on sites such as Amazon and iTunes have been exploding. These sites acknowledge that DRM is a waste of time and give customers free-to-copy versions of songs. A smart move that helped the industry grow as a whole.

Customers will always be looking for convenience when downloading media. The creative industry needs to get it's head out of the clouds and look at the reality of a future whereby bandwidth is cheap. Sure, price a HD-DVD or Bluray 1080p triple A rated 3D movie at $49.90. But there is no reason why you couldnt also have an internet streamed / downloaded DRM-less version of the movie at SDTV resolution available for $5 bucks a pop - a price that many consumers will pay for the sheer convenience, and not everyone is a HD snob.

Having downloadable movies will not change the fact that I will still take my girlfriend out to the movies to enjoy the big screen and popcorn! It will not change the fact that I will get a Bluray movie to enjoy my new 50" plasma.

Killing Off The Middlemen

It's time to revolutionize digital distribution. Do what iTunes and Amazon did for music. Do what Valve and it's STEAM service did for games - they made more money selling games cheaply than pricing it high. They completely cut off the middleman and gave more back to content creators. Kill The Labels, end the RIAA/MPAA... there is no need to waste money on political lobbying and SWAT raids.

I really hope a service like STEAM will come in and revolutinize media distribution, giving the proverbial finger to the the RIAA and MPAA... directly connecting consumers with creators of media.

As technology improves, it will become cheaper and cheaper to produce media in general, making labels even less necessary. I see a future in which independant production houses liase directly with consumers via content agregator services. Less money in the pockets of lobbyists and lawyers. Cheaper media downloaded at my convenience for a reasonable price. 

But but... jobs will be lost!

Artists will continue doing their thing... selling their brand (Britney Spears parfum anyone?) and performing live shows. It's where they have always gotten alot of their income. Sure a decline in CD/DVD sales will mean that an artist may have to fly first class instead of having a personal jet, but nobody's fussed about that. Having a free distribution of media would also mean lesser known artists will not be so inundated by the well known ones.

The real jobs that would be lost are the ones that are invested in the RIAA/MPAA. The executives, lawyers, and people in the industry not actually creating media! 

The Aftermath

I speculate that nothing's really going to change even after the file-locker services are curtailed. Filestube may become irrelevant, but other than that, despite the RIAA and MPAA claims that piracy is causing a great deal of loss to content creators, _THE ACTUAL AMOUNT CONSUMERS SPEND ON MEDIA IS NOT GOING TO CHANGE MUCH_. Face it, media is something people consume with spare cash...and killing off a source of pirated media wouldnt force these people to buy media. If anything, less people will become media buffs...which is bad... and is the reason why music artists are so desperate to get their music videos out to the public for free (think FM radio and youtube).

A movie on Filestube is not going to change the number of times I go to the movies with friends. A lot of media is already available freely online, legally, via services such as Hulu and Youtube/VEVO. Musicians will continue to make money by performing their art and selling their brand/licensing... not by selling CD's!

At best, the pirates will be pushed underground, and at the end of the day, high quality HD rips of movies will still be available for those who try hard enough to get them.

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