Another Example Of Less Intellectual Property Protection Leading To More Innovation

from the innovation-without-IP dept

ZeroPaid, TechCrunch and Wired are all pointing to a video interview done by writer Thomas Crampton of a guy in China, who talks about how much more advanced P2P technology is in China, mostly because the makers of that technology don’t have to constantly hide themselves underground or fight with the entertainment industry and the government just for the right to exist. While some are saying this is quite a revelation (others are pointing out that the claims seem exaggerated), it shouldn’t be surprising at all to find out the technology is getting better without the constant pressure from the entertainment industry. For years, we’ve seen example after example after example of where the fight to more stringently protect intellectual property in the name of innovation has actually done the opposite, slowing down the pace of innovation. In fact there are whole books on the topic. This is merely another example. While the entertainment industry has continued to insist that more stringent copyright laws help promote innovation, that’s increasingly being proven incorrect.

Amusingly, it seems that the “protectionist” China is leading the way with much more free market policies on these issues. Two and a half years ago, we pointed out that, despite all the problems with rampant “piracy,” the Chinese music industry was doing extremely well — because those musicians had learned to adapt and embrace new business models that didn’t require directly selling the music. It’s only two years later that musicians outside of China seem to be catching up.

However, the more important lesson here is in understanding the unintended consequences at play. The RIAA and the MPAA (and Congress, through the generous donations of those two organizations) have talked about how important it is to “protect” content — but in doing so, they crippled the industry for developing P2P tools, which have the potential to be a much more important part of economic activity in the future. Better tools for the distribution and promotion of content are quite important, and by cracking down on that in the name of “piracy” we’ve now hurt the US’s ability to lead in that field — and without any real benefit to the content creators the industry was so anxious to protect. It’s really the same as any other protectionist policy. If you protect an industry, it just allows others elsewhere to be more innovative and more nimble and to take control over that industry. It simply destroys the industry at home where it’s supposedly “protected” and hurts consumers by offering them less innovation for more money.

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Comments on “Another Example Of Less Intellectual Property Protection Leading To More Innovation”

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Morgan says:

Is RIAA Compulsory?

I don’t really agree on this whole mess. Any artist, as far as I know, could exactly follow the Chinese model anytime. I don’t think, unless it’s compulsory, any organization can hold an entire industry back. The bands are free yesterday, today, and tomorrow to do that if it’s making so much money in China.

I think the problem I have with this is that disagreeing with a business model becomes a sort of excuse for piracy. Stealing is stealing, if a company or an artist has a ridiculous set of terms to follow, it should hurt them in the pocketbook by no one listening. Unfortunately, people decide to steal instead. Dumb.

I’m just glad Radiohead finally pointed out how weak it was to claim all the P2P was somehow a revolt against the DRM and RIAA and overpriced music. Even at $1, people choose to steal as opposed to not listening, and they deserve prosecution just like any other thief.

Danny says:

Better tools for the distribution and promotion of content are quite important, and by cracking down on that in the name of “piracy” we’ve now hurt the US’s ability to lead in that field — and without any real benefit to the content creators the industry was so anxious to protect.

The thing to point here is that in the case of the RIAA the industry is not trying to protect the creators, they are trying to protect themselves. If musicians were being so badly hurt by piracy wouldn’t they be up in arms about it too? But no over the last decade or so there are have been very few musical acts that have complained about how piracy has hurt them.

Scott Horvath says:

Where's my P2P?

I completely agree that the RIAA and MPAA have help lead to the crippling of P2P tools in this country. They’re need for short-term wealth, and the ability to pound their chimpanizic-chests when they successfully sue someone, is not only affecting the development of P2P tools but also the negative connotation that P2P tools have in businesses…especially government.

Many government agencies, just like mine, forbid the use of P2P. Why? Because it’s still seen as a “music” sharing tool. Additionally, there’s no training that’s given to people when new tools come out…so they’re not aware of how to use P2P tools effectively instead of opening up their entire system. We [the government] probably waste a vast amount of money (that we don’t have) on bandwidth, tech support, and production time when people send 10 MB PowerPoint files in an email. Then (if you use Lotus Notes and simply hit “reply”) it resends the entire email with the attachment BACK to all the people on the email thread. So this happens 10 times during one email conversation.

If we were allowed to use P2P tools, and if they trained people how to use them, I could send an email and say my schpeel and then say “you can get the attachment from my shared folder” instead of attaching that 40 MB presentation with non web-optimized graphics.


Brian says:

Re: Where's my P2P?

My friend, in a previous government job, that was the bane of my existence. I would have 64K INMARSAT Mini-M terminal dialed back into our LAN and would receive Powerpoint attachments between 50-100MB…you can imagine how well the system handled that and the amount of money spent on satellite bandwidth. I once saw a $1.2M MONTHLY satellite access bill (from one terminal amongst many). Crazy.

Anonymous Coward says:

RE: Where's my P2P?


You are so right. It is much like training the ARMY or MARINES to go to war, by not taking them to the field, or allowing them to fire real weapons. The ARMY was starting to dabble with the theory of warfare classes when I got out. They wanted to reduce injuries by taking us out of the field and putting us in a lecture hall and train by watching CG simulations. No offense, but they are just prepping us to die quickly.

The same is true for the music industry, you kill off all of these great file sharing apps, and you make it impossible for companies and government to effectively save on bandwidth. I run a colocation in a carrier hotel and I am always trying to reduce costs by thinning out my bandwidth consumption. Granted, I have no problems when my customers demand more, because they pay for it, but my own applications need constant pruning.

Bandwidth, although much cheaper than it used to be, is still very expensive. P2P is a great way to help curb over usage. I use bittorrent to do large file transfers, because I share the files from each of my POPs in each major city. This spreads the bandwidth usage over many locations and reduces the overall footprint.

Media organizations have been doing this (crushing innovation) for decades, they see technology as a threat, rather than a gold mine. The real issue is that they don’t want to understand how his can help them, they just want to kill it before it hurts them at all. Unfortunately fear is an excellent motivator. Too bad it typically overpowers the motivation for money, and the need to help humanity grow.

RandomThoughts (user link) says:

Humanity grows when kids P2P Britney songs?

I understand that P2P can be a good tool, but you can’t just expect folks that produce content to just roll over when they see their revenue model go away. Just because it saves bandwidth for you doesn’t make it important to them.

From the Wall Street Journal on the 15th “In wondering about the answers to those questions, don’t expect many other bands to follow Radiohead’s lead. When you’re a band as big as Thom Yorke and Co., the rules change — yet even Radiohead isn’t completely leaving the old ways behind. “Eliminating the middleman” has become information-age gospel, but however distasteful artists may find middlemen in theory, in practice they’re not so easy to do without.

From the Journal today discuss guidelines to prevent copyright voilations: “The agreed-upon principles include using technology to eliminate copyright-infringing content uploaded by users to Web sites, and blocking any infringing material before it is publicly accessible, says the person familiar with the matter.”

Microsoft, Dailymotion, NBC, News Corp, Viacom, Disney and others. Google is in discussion to join the group.

What does this mean for P2P? I think that will be the next target.

SailorRipley says:

Re: Re:

I understand that P2P can be a good tool, but you can’t just expect folks that produce content to just roll over when they see their revenue model go away. Just because it saves bandwidth for you doesn’t make it important to them.

Yet there are no restrictions on the legality or opportunities for innovation of knives, crowbars,… even though those can be used for illegal activities.

So why exactly should P2P software (or more generally, any software that by using it in an illegal fashion would cost the content producers money) be exceptions?

While I’m making remarks: it’s not the content producers (artists, etc…) but the content distributors(record companies) who are limiting innovation

Anthony Kuhn (user link) says:

Whoa, that's crazy talk!


Well, good on you for taking such a controversial stance on the issue of P2P piracy and innovation. I’m not sure on which side of the issue to stand, but I know that many people who own IP stand on the side of copyrights and making money from their efforts. Wonder how the Chinese will feel when some “up-and-coming” nations are infringing on their ideas and stealing rice from their mouths? Will they then “give them time to become law-abiding global citizens” or will the sick the WTO on them? Only time will tell. I cross-posted on your piece to The Innovators Network is a non-profit dedicated to bringing technology to startups, small businesses, non-profits, venture capitalists and intellectual property experts. Please visit us and help grown our community!

Best wishes for continued success,

Anthony Kuhn
Innovators Network

DISCONTENTS (user link) says:

Protection versus Property Rights

Government protection of an industry leading to a fall in consumer sovereignty in the short-run and a decline in the industry’s competitiveness in the long-run is a very valid point and has often been a stumbling block on the road to economic growth.

Property rights however, are also a fundamental element to economic growth in market economies, so while intellectual property rights can be over-zealously protected and enforced, their existence is nevertheless fundamental.

elisa says:

Can't stop illegal downloaders

You can’t beat people who are going to illegally downlowad. You can make it harder but as Drew Lanza points out as data storage capacity exponentially increases, so does the temptation to steal intellectual property.


And I think you are smart in suggesting that media learn how to work with p2p and file-sharing programs because, they can’t stop it.

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