You can lead a horse to water, but you can't pay it to legally download
While Congress is out, the PK blog can get a little thin–at least my posts, anyways. It's not that things aren't going on, but it can be difficult to shoehorn the PK view/agenda into the news of the day. And who wants to read shoehorned news anyways–you can get that anywhere–and really, that's not the value of our blog, nor is it interesting for you to read.
That said, the intersection of a number of stories around the web/blog-o-sphere makes for an interesting analysis, and hopefully an more interesting read.
Here are the pertinent stories. If you haven't read them, open them up in another tab, and then please come back here when you're done:
The unfortunate truth is that some horses are stubborn and cannot be lead to water. Others are so stubborn, even when you bring them water, they won't drink. The down-right ornery horses will kick-over their water trough. Those who provide water are better off finding more agreeable horses.
Some members of the US content industry are stubborn, down-right ornery horses.
The first linked story is one we've been hearing for some time–big content sues innovator/promoter-with-out-permission. It's an old and boring story, but sadly, it's what's expected.
In the second and third articles, even when the innovator wants to pay, big content attempts to put them out of business. “But we want to give you money?!” “No, we'd rather not have the additional source of revenue, and shut you down.”
The fourth story, the innovator creates a device that helps to sell and expose more content to consumers. It provides recording features that not only set it apart from the market leader, but they are features that are legal as well. Apparently, to license content from big content, the device's otherwise legal functionality must be crippled. Sounds exactly like what the music industry was attempting to get put into law just a few weeks ago.
The fact is, the content industry has all the market power. It holds all the monopoly rights to content. If big content doesn't like your negotiating terms, you might as well go pound sand because there's nothing you can do about it.
Very rarely, an innovator is able to make a deal. I'm not sure if it was tactful negotiating or the inevitable PR nightmare that would have enveloped the content industry had they sued. But already we're hearing that the deal was not good enough–not because the revenue-generating eyeballs have gone elsewhere, but because big content smells more money since the purchase.
And while there is hope that some US-based big content understand and are adapting to the market, the grass might be greener for innovators in other countries–as noted by the last linked story. According to Ben Scent, South Korea is not only a leader in broadband, its television viewers:
have been able to watch their favorite shows online. The shows are offered not by a third party like the Apple iTunes Store or Google Video, but by the TV companies themselves, who provide complete archives of their shows that can be downloaded or streamed, either for free or for pennies.
In Korea, online video is not an experiment–it is a success. + It is a daily reality for most Koreans, not just for the young crowd or the techie set. The entire society has lived the broadband lifestyle for a while now, and is more attuned to its potential.
+ emphasis added
South Korean big content has likely had to compete with free on a much grander scale, since their series of tubes are much fatter. But it sounds like they've adapted to the download market and thanks to innovators like YouTube and Google, they'll likely be able to help monetize it.
I really don't like to beat up on big content and don't approve of copyright infringement, either. But as I've said before, copyright “piracy” only exists because of market failure. If a market player, like US big content, can rest on its old business models and not adapt, willing-to-pay innovators are likely to head to other countries.
But there are some very positive recent developments. Much of this fall television lineup is easily and legally available online, and deals with Google and YouTube to hopefully allow for consumer mash-ups are encouraging, and hopefully a sign of things to come.