Sunday, February 13, 2005

MPAA + RIAA = the anti-cool industry?

The defect in the movie and music company associations attempts to stamp out online file-sharing--aka digital piracy--through lawsuits is they set themselves against a group of consumers that marketers in other circumstances covet. The Shawn Fannings and Brad Cohens of this world are not just rebel technologists, but influence millions of young consumers to use (abuse?) their creations (Napster and bittorrent, respectively). While the MPAA and RIAA may see them as outlaws, kids who have grown up on the Internet do not. These users of p2p software are the early adopters of what is new and cool and if you antagonize these trendsetters by suing them and fostering DRM technologies on them unbidden they will tell their friends to stay far away from the entertainment bullies.

Kids are known to hold grudges, especially when they think they have done no harm, a common response to questions asked about if they think filesharing is wrong. So, if an entertainment conglomerate thinks it can hoodwink consumers into embracing its products after they were sued or had their favorite website shut down, think again. Why do you think that MPAA-backed sites like Movielink are afterthoughts while bittorrent has taken the broadband world by storm?

What about Apple's iTunes? Although it is an undeniable hit, it is due more to the popularity of the iPod and the player's compatibility with the MP3 file format (along with its DRM'd AAC files), than the service itself. Sony's attempt at challenging iTunes with its Connect service that allowed for only Sony's proprietary file format was a spectacular failure. A Sony executive recently acknowledged that fact, a rarity for a company who product, the Walkman, created the portable music industry.

How can the entertainment business compete against free? Now, if only there was a business plan that revolved around giving away free content, then consumers would have no incentive to frequent illegitimate sites. Hmm...

Well are not two pillars that built the content industry in broadcast TV and radio "free" for consumers? Are not they multibillion dollar businesses that made record companies and studios the cultural force they are today? If they are so "free" how can executives afford to hand out million dollar contracts to musicians and actors as well has enrich company shareholders and themselves? If executives would stop their whining by instructing their lawyers to sue another batch of 12-year olds and acting like brats who go to their mommies every time they shoved into the mud puddle, then perhaps they would have the time to come up with a business model that gives consumers what they want and not the other way around.

UPDATE: the news publishing industry would love to give away its product (see the flap over fraudulent circulation numbers at Newsday, the Sun-Times, and Forbes) if only they could convince their advertisers to go along.