John Anthony was the first of a whole bunch of you to send over this excellent article by James Allworth at Harvard Business Review, talking about how the big record labels and the big movie studios are strangling innovation
with their braindead, backwards-looking, protectionist approach to anything that changes the market they've been in for years. There isn't necessarily much new
in the article for folks who regularly read what we talk about here, but it does a nice job pulling the pieces together, and it's great to see HBR publish such a piece:
Many in the high technology industry have known this for a long time. Despite making their living relying on it, the Big Content players do not understand technology, and never have. Rather than see it as an opportunity to reach new audiences, technology has always been a threat to them. Example after example abounds of this attitude; whether it was the VCR which was "to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone" as famed movie industry lobbyist Jack Valenti put it at a congressional hearing, or MP3 technology, which they tried to sue out of existence. In fact, it's possible to go back as far as the gramophone and see the content industries rail against new technology. The reason why? Every shift in technology is difficult for them. Just as they work out how to make money using one technology, it changes.
The sensible thing for them to do would be to learn how to deal with the change. Instead, their approach to every generation of technology is either to attempt to stymie it so badly that nobody wants it, or to stop it altogether through their influence with lawmakers in Washington DC.
Allworth goes on to note that while it was bad in the past, now it's reaching really dangerous levels with things like COICA and other attempts to alter basic technology and cut out the "heart of innovation," by driving innovative startups -- the companies creating the technology and services "Big Content" really needs -- to start and grow outside the US rather than at home.
The result of laws like this? Startups -- the engine of America's growth -- will just go elsewhere. China and India are creating environments extremely conducive to disruptive innovation. Even Europe is benefiting -- one of the most promising recent music services, Spotify, is hosted in Europe. It's still not available to American consumers.
If you're the next YouTube, would you want to locate here in the US and risk having the government simply switch off your site at the behest of Big Content? Or might it not be easier to find a more benign environment to create your business in?
The ultimate irony in all of this is that if we stop giving the content industries what they want -- sweeping, blanket protections -- we may actually be doing them a favor. They wanted the VCR banned. It turned out to be one of the most profitable technologies for the movie industry in its history. Ignoring their requests may turn out to be cruel to be kind -- instead of focusing on trying to fight the technology, they'll be forced to find ways of profitably embracing it.
Of course, this is the same point many of us have been making for years. I'm curious if now that it's in the Harvard Business Review, we'll hear about how this is all a part of the "free content astroturfing pirate conspiracy" that people have been accusing me of being a part of lately.