What Have We Learned: Greater IP Enforcement Doesn't Work… Yet That's What Governments Want To Give
from the hammers-and-nails dept
It’s been an interesting few weeks on the research side of things, and it seemed like a recap was in order. Kicking it off, we had two separate research reports from two highly regarded organizations, both of which came to the same basic conclusions concerning strategies for dealing with copyright infringement online. First was the, rather epic, research report from the Social Science Research Council, which concluded that greater enforcement wouldn’t work and wouldn’t stop infringement in various countries around the world. Instead, it argued that the solution was better business models by the entertainment industry. Just a few days later, some research from the London School of Economics concluded basically the same thing, specifically in looking at the Digital Economy Act in the UK. It came up with three basic conclusions: the decrease in sales is due to many factors; providing legal, innovative and consumer friendly services is a much better strategy than enforcement; and focusing on enforcement that suppresses new technologies will not do much good. And, then, finally, late last week, we came across a study that also highlighted that the supposed “damage” done by file sharing appears to be exaggerated.
So… what does this tell us? It seems to support what many people have been saying for over a decade. Fighting what technology allows and what consumers want is not an effective strategy. File sharing, if combined with smarter business models, can allow music to flourish just fine, and (most importantly) focusing on greater enforcement strategies won’t solve any of the industry’s problems, but could actually harm new businesses and new opportunities.
So, given all of that… shouldn’t we be rather alarmed that the key strategic effort by the entertainment industry these days, which is now the official policy of the White House is to focus almost entirely on “greater enforcement”? Of course, part of the problem is that the last time we ramped up our IP laws, with the ProIP Act (driven by the entertainment industry, of course), part of the law was to create an “IP Enforcement Coordinator.” Note how short-sighted this is. It wasn’t about creating an “IP Effective Coordinator.” It wasn’t about creating a role to determine the best or most appropriate levels of IP. It wasn’t even to help content creators understand the economics of the markets they dealt with or to suggest new and innovative business models.
The role was to focus solely on enforcement.
Yet now, as we learn that focusing on enforcement is a mistake, rather than backing off, it seems like those who created the role are simply doubling down. It’s as if they don’t realize how much harm they’re doing to their own markets. It’s really quite unfortunate. These are industries that should be thriving right now. After all, the expenses involved in almost everything they do has gone down. It’s become cheaper to create professional content. It’s become cheaper to package professional content. It’s become cheaper to distribute professional content. It’s become cheaper to promote professional content. It’s even become cheaper to sell the content and ancillary products around the content. Every aspect of the business has become cheaper, and a much more massive audience has been opened up to these content creators. And rather than embrace it, they’ve whined and complained… and the US government’s response is to support them in this? What a shame.
If the current content industries have been unable to take advantage of an amazing new world of content creation, promotion and distribution, it’s their own fault. Having governments get in the game of cracking down on new and innovative technologies, just to protect a few legacy companies too slow and too confused to adapt is not a solution. It’s the same story all over again. The political system is focused on bailing out the companies who failed to change with the market. We’ve seen it time and time again in other industries, and it always comes back to haunt us. We shouldn’t be bailing out the movie industry and the recording industry right now. Both have had plenty of opportunities to embrace new business models. Plenty of content creators outside of the traditional system have done so, successfully. Governments around the world should stop focusing on protecting these players who are too resistant to change.