Next Wednesday the BBC is hosting a conference entitled “Combating Piracy In The Digital Age.“:
On 6 May the BBC is hosting a conference, bringing together people from across a wide range of creative industries to examine common approaches to combating online piracy.
Rt Hon David Lammy MP, Minister of State for Higher Education and Intellectual Property, will make a keynote address. Media analyst Mathew Horsman will present the latest analysis of how piracy is affecting music, TV, film and other sectors including computer games, business software and publishing. Senior figures from these industries will discuss the right legal approach to tackling piracy; the role that media literacy and consumer education might play; and how new business models could create attractive legal alternatives to what the pirates offer.
I will be going along and I am hoping it will prove to be a productive conference.
My vision and advice for the industry:
– The content producers in a digital media world have lost their ability to guarantee the uniqueness of their content.
Content owners have sought to lock their content down with Digital Rights Management (DRM) techniques. These DRM techniques have imposed much greater restrictions on content reproduction and distribution than those present in a non-DRM world. This has led to a desire for those who wish to have their content as free as possible to seek to circumvent these DRM techniques. The past ten years, since the introduction of the DMCA act in the United States in 1998, has seen a clash of cultures between those who believe that content owners have a right to manage the distribution of their product and those who believe that this content is part of culture and should be freely available. The advent of faster network access, improved coding techniques, more powerful computers, new protocols allowing for decentralised, distributed digital media delivery architecture, the rise of Open Source computing and the convergence of consumer media products has created seismic shifts in the digital media landscape. This has resulted in content producers starting to look at distributing their content DRM-free – but without having an alternative system which allows them to maintain some control they recognise that they are in a business model which is doomed to extinction.
– The infrastructure owners, the people delivering digital media content, have no incentive to deliver unique content.
Online delivery methods have developed which are decentralised and open. These have facilitated the free sharing of digital media – where the marginal cost of copying is almost zero. This has resulted in more people wanting greater infrastructure access, faster broadband, uncapped limits, etc. The infrastructure owners have benefited from non-interference in the traffic flowing across their network. Hence there is no gain for them, at the moment, in having one digital copy more valuable than another. They also have no desire to do the content owners job for them. The infrastructure owners recognise that the content producers have painted themselves into a corner with their doomed policies on DRM. They also recognise that by adopting the “do nothing” approach they can continue to benefit from the explosion in digital media content without having to get directly involved in negotiating access to it. There is a lack of trust on both sides. There have been efforts by both sides to legislate and sue the other into compliance. Neither side is enamoured with the other at the moment.
– The key is to develop a Digital Media Exchange to put trust back into the ecosystem and give both content producers and infrastructure owners the benefits of a unique digital media product.
This will require the will of the content producers to try something different – which they are more than willing to do at the moment – and a big carrot for the infrastructure owners. This we can give them as there are a lot of complementary services they could develop, which is what they will need in their competitive market where margins are low and churn rate is high.
The plan would be to digitally watermark content as it enters the Digital Media Exchange to allow for a unique identifier to be attributed to each piece of content. The content will also be in the highest quality format. You can then implement a system which will allow the people who wish to have access to this content – primarily focusing on businesses wishing to sell advertising (and using the content as a vehicle) to begin with – to specify what format they wish to get this in and how they wish to place their logos/messages on the audio/video.
The advantage this gives to the content owner is that they now have a unique product which can be redistributed in multiple format but always with a unique identifier and so therefore with a full audit trail. The advantage to the infrastructure owner is that by having access to a legitimate source of content they can build services around this which they can use to differentiate their offering from their competitors. The advantage to the advertiser is they get access to a whole new world of legitimate content – an untapped market which the content producer now can bring their product to, thus delivering them another benefit.
The input of digital media is the advantage for the content producer. All they need to provide is one high quality copy of the product with appropriate descriptions of the content. After that the system within the Digital Media Exchange assigns the appropriate coding to the file to indicate who it originated from and when and then proceeds to transcode multiple copies in multiple formats – each with its own unique code to identify it.
Within a Digital Media Exchange advertisers can choose the individual files, categories, user profiles, genres, etc. they wish to market to and upload appropriate branding to go with the formats and different market segments can get the same content with different branding, also diffent market regions can get different products targetted at the same demographic.
The digital media buyer can browse the Digital Media Exchange online and choose both file format and branding they would like on their output. If they would like to brand the file with their own specific identity then that facility also exists. So they can have the choice of:
This leads to a world where content producers and broadcasters stop thinking in terms of units sold or ratings achieved and more in terms of relationships formed.
Content producers target specific broadcasters for their market reach. Broadcasters deliver specific content to specific channels for specific market segments. People become fans of certain programmes/genres and they place a certain value on a programme based on the channel they receive it. These are the relationships that exist already between the various parties in the entertainment chain. These relationships get measured currently by specific metrics and these metrics give a value to a distribution chain.
By allowing users to store content centrally, the broadcaster becoming the facilitator of access to that content and the content producer being the primary source for renewal or upgrading of that content then you begin to build a new ecosystem that allows digital files to become unique as they begin to have a value that comes from the relationships.
This may not be to everyone’s liking – or people may want more immediate results – but if you begin to accept the realities of digital distribution then you recognise the need to think and act differently!
Did a quick list off the top of my head (for a discussion at work) of where to start to get a flavour of the technical online discussion.
BPI’s “Adults you know it’s wrong !” websleight:
BPI’s “Teenagers you know it’s wrong!” websleight:
BPI’s “Toddler’s you know it’s wrong!” websleight:
Digital technologies have lowered the barriers to entry, and barriers of access, to content. Consumer is Content Creator is Distributor is Medium. A new opportunity has been born.
The market to produce and also to consume has been reshaped. People are becoming more used to having the opportunity to have an input, both into the community around and the feedback loop surrounding the content.
All Entertainment industry output is scatter gun – but only a percentage of it gets watched/read and then it becomes disposable – but now with a digital format, digital distribution, digital platform and digital cognoscenti the content can have a new lifespan/shelflife.
With this comes a new business model, new approach to rights, new approach to commissioning and new approach to royalties. This will not make a silk purse from a sow’s ear – in the end the market will still decide what works – it just means there will be more room for more voices and more tastes.
The key to enabling any of this is to open a two-way channel between the content creator and the customer. The customer can become part of the creative process as well and being able to reward them for this input is important.
Locking your content down and treating the consumer as a passive object to be handed the final product is anathema to the digital age. Be brave and build alliances with the consumer – the rewards are there for those who embrace this new approach.
The question facing the Entertainment industry is quite simple – lock down content through DRM and punish everyone by default or keep content free from a technical restriction and punish those infringing on a corporate scale.
Just because you technologically can doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Technically you can seek to enforce proper speed limits – and save lives – by getting into the engine in every car, but just try it! People accept a certain element of control, with speed limits and speed cameras, but it would be considered an assault on personal freedom to take the ultimate decision from the person behind the wheel. And this is with real lives and real consequences.
You have to have a massive mistrust of the consumer to not believe that ultimately they know the difference between right and wrong. In the 1980s you could get a copy of Microsoft Office with viral ease. Today all the same people happily hand over their cash to Microsoft by the truck load. Nobody ended up inherently believing that they had a right to free Microsoft Office products for life.
Why the Entertainment industry thinks that current crop of digitally-savvy, computer-literate consumers will end up believing that they will have a right to free content forever baffles me.
The way to approach this area is to follow Nolan’s Stages of Growth model: Initiation – Contagion – Control – Integration – Data Administration(read commercialisation) – Maturity
We are at the beginning of a new age and people just want to play and see how far they can stretch their creative muscles.
The time for moving further along the growth model comes when people start to realise that the tools they are playing with are more than just mere toys but commercially applicable components and outputs.
Relax people – when the time comes everyone will make lots of money. The real smart move now is to get your stuff out there for people to play with. There a whole new generation who just want to see where they can go with this digital idea – and most of them are doing it just for the sake of doing it. There is no point in trying to map your existing business models on to their behaviour. They’re just having fun!
The worst thing the Entertainment industry can do is hand over the keys
to their content to the IT industry through DRM.
BT in the UK are going completely IP on their network infrastructure. So you get a double whammy when the Entertainment industry then has to have that content delivered by the Telecoms industry.
Telecoms and IT massively outweigh the Entertainment industry economically. Add in the fact that users are creating their own Digital Online Content and seeking their own methods of distribution – YouTube, Video.Google, WordPress, Blogger, Flickr, Photobucket, etc. . Triple whammy.
What I lack is time not content. Locking the content down with DRM makes you beholden to the software industry and if it gets cracked, it’s your service that has to come off the air, not theirs. And if the consumer has to patch their playout platform then it’s you they blame, not the IT industry, if that patch breaks their platform or their content. A lose-lose scenario.
What I need is Pathfinders not Gatekeepers. Get your content out there and add value on your own site.
Make me come to you and then give me a reason to spend my money. Just because I have the content doesn’t mean I won’t want to buy a physical reproduction of it – either as a present or because I want to.
Give me a reason to come to your site and then add to my knowledge – I’ll keep coming back – cash in hand!
A posting by Chris Lightfoot from 2002 entitled – Content providers and content consumers: a cynic’s view.
“This, to my mind, is the core point of this dispute: the majority of content consumers don’t care about free software, cryptography, the availability of general purpose computers, the power of large corporations or the principle that `it’s my stuff, I’ll do what I damn well like with it’. These are minority issues. But everyone likes to get something for nothing. The status quo makes doing this illegal, but so what?”
Let me post a request for content!
Backstory – I wanted to give someone an introduction to an Irish singer – Mary Black – and the album I wanted to recommend was one from 1990 called The best of Mary Black. Well – what started off as a simple task, blossomed into a quest which then transmogrified into an obsession to get this content online. And I failed!
I spent hours trying every online avenue to get this and was utterly defeated. The thing that got me mad though was the digital download sites that kept telling me what they had but not allowing me to tell them what I wanted!
Listen music people – I have money and I’m not afraid to spend it!
But not one single online site asked me the most basic of retail’s rules – ask the customer what it is they want.
If a download site had a button on their site that said – “Can’t find it? Click here and we will get it for you.” – BOOM – you got me.
So there you go online music etailers – a double header – put something like this on your site and you will get both my money and my loyalty – minus my consultancy fee, of course.