William Patry continues to use his new blog to make some great points that bear repeating. In a new post discussing Theodore Levitt's "marketing myopia" concept (something I believed in
long before someone showed me Levitt's work), he points out how the industry seems to miss this basic point: that it's not selling "property" to people, but a benefit the customer wants. If something else better satisfies that benefit, customers will go there. From there, he points out that the entertainment industry is way too focused on property
, and acts as if copyright is there to provide a special protectionist plan for them alone:
I believe that too many companies in the copyright industries appear oblivious to the very idea that consumers have needs; to them, consumers are passive purchasers of what those companies decide to sell. And if they decide not to sell at all, too bad; that's their prerogative as a property owner. Copyright is the method by which control over consumers is achieved (or the decision not to sell is enforced). Copyright owners' adoption of control as their principal business model results in closed systems, in which copyright owners try to tightly control everything connected to their works: which play back devices will be offered to the public; what types of access controls will be interposed before consumers can ever see, hear, or in the case of books or other literary works, even read a snippet of the work; the time period during which consumers will have access to the work; how many times can consumers see, hear, or read the work; in what format will consumers be able to access the work; what will they be able to do with the work once they finally access it.
Copyright owners speak of this control as protecting their property (the subject of next week's blogs), but once your focus is on protecting yourself from your customer, you are in deep trouble. The government did not grant a monopoly in order to simply horde it: copyright is not a TARP fund. There is a huge divide in perception on this point: when copyright owners succeed in enjoining, shutting down, or crippling services that give consumers what they want, e.g., MP3.com, Launchcast, or RealDVD software, copyright owners see a threat removed, but consumers see an industry determined to thwart their desires. (I do not speak here of those who want simply to copy works as a substitute for paying for them). When is the last time (or maybe even a first time), copyright owners lobbied Congress for greater consumer access to their works, or sued to increase such consumer access?
This perception gap is huge and is critical to understanding the divided nature of the Copyright Wars. Control is seen as essential by the content industries, while consumers see it as a dagger through the heart of the very reason for copyright. All businesses should be free to commit suicide by putting their interests ahead of their customers (unless they are financial institutions, apparently, or insurance companies operating as hedge funds), but they should die on their own and not stay propped up a government granted monopoly.
Great stuff, as per usual from Patry. In the post, he also discusses how he, too, at one point (when he worked at the Copyright Office) was pulled by this sway of control, as he was among those who pushed to add protections for building design, but was eventually convinced otherwise by a colleague, who pointed out that copyright wasn't the reason new buildings would get built.