A Timeline Of How The Entertainment Industry Made The File Sharing Issue Much Worse For Itself

from the keep-whac-whac-whacing dept

A bunch of folks have sent over the various stories about how Paramount's COO, Fred Huntsberry, recently started claiming that the "new piracy threat" facing Hollywood is "digital lockers." The whole article is a bit silly in a variety of ways, not the least of which is that it's an implicit admission that Hollywood's own tactics have been a complete failure. The funny thing is that even as they're admitting it, you get the feeling they don't realize it. Let's follow the "path" which many people warned about as soon as Napster was sued:
  1. Napster was a Silicon Valley, venture capital-funded startup that tried to bend over backwards to figure out a way for the industry to embrace it and work with it legitimately. The entertainment industry had every opportunity to work out a reasonable deal, and instead took a hardline position, suing the company effectively out of business (though the brand later lived on).
  2. After Napster, just as many people warned, the file sharing market began to fragment and shifted to slightly more distributed operations, such as Grokster, Kazaa and Morpheus. These were a bit more difficult to work with, but all still involved company entities that had an interest in working with the entertainment industry. Once again, they were sued out of business.
  3. After Grokster, again the market fragmented even more, and a lot of the interest shifted to BitTorrent and tracker sites. These sites were often outside of the US, and not particularly interested in working with the entertainment industry to actually set up any kind of business relationship. And, still, the industry sued to get them shut down (a process that is still ongoing), while also seeking to pass specific laws against them.
  4. So here we are, and the market has fragmented even more and people have been driven even further underground to things like private cyberlocker sites. Hollywood is claiming that many of these sites are run by organized crime groups, though, we've yet to see any evidence to support that.
So look at the progression here. There was really one company initially, which was entirely aboveboard and open to working with the entertainment industry. At every step down the ladder -- each one pushed forward by the entertainment industry's own lawsuits and regulatory efforts -- the market becomes more fragmented and more underground, with less and less of an ability for the entertainment industry to embrace and work with them.
"Sometimes these sites look better than the legitimate sites," Huntsberry said. "That's the irony."
That's not irony, Fred, that's your company and your colleagues failing for over a decade to come up with a way to properly satisfy consumer demand.

All in all, you actually start to wonder if Hollywood has this need to make up some big scary bogeyman to keep pushing its legislative agenda of granting more and more control and taking away more and more user rights. At first it was "file sharing sites." Then those were sued out of existence. So then it was BitTorrent trackers. And now its lockers. In fact, it's amusing that as part of Huntsberry's talk he basically admitted that three strikes laws aren't enough because they don't do anything to stop these file lockers. In other words, "we fought, and are still fighting, for three strikes laws that we know are useless." It's as if the entertainment industry has to just keep pointing out some huge new threat so that the government keeps paying attention to them.

Along those lines, techflaws.org points us to a German publication's coverage of the same Huntsberry talk, and it's interesting that The Hollywood Reporter version of the story appears to have conveniently left out the part where Huntsberry blames Google for all of this (that's a Google translation of the original). In that one, he calls Google the "biggest leech." Of course, the courts recently shot down that claim, but it looks like Viacom and its subsidiaries are sticking to the claim.

What's amazing, of course, is that if the folks at Paramount and other studios and record labels stopped looking for enemies everywhere, they would have realized there were tons of opportunities to adapt and embrace these things a decade ago. But each step of the way they've made things more difficult for themselves. It's a living case study in how not to respond to a disruptive market change.

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  1. identicon
    bigpicture, 26 Jun 2010 @ 10:29am

    Technology Transition

    In the days of the transition from horse carriage to automobiles Studebaker was one of the biggest horse carriage manufacturers. (A huge company by the standards of the day) They finally caved too late to the concept that automobiles would eventually replace carriages and started manufacturing automobiles. But they still used the horse carriage mentality and were unable to compete with paradigms like Ford introduced (manufacture and control ALL your own components and assemble on a line) and were eventually put out of business. See how many of the big Recording labels are around in another 10 years? Could Studebaker stop the advent of the automobile?

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