We've certainly suggested that Chris Dodd was making a big mistake
by focusing on the MPAA's old talking points in his new role as chief of that lobbying organization. Rather than leading Hollywood to a future of new business models and smarter embrace of what consumers want, he's kicked things off by being anti-consumer, anti-technology and a supporter of previous policies that have failed massively. It's not exactly a recipe for success. Marty Kaplan, a professor at USC, is pointing all this out in a wonderful opinion piece, explaining to Chris Dodd why he's focused on the wrong things
. He uses the recent SSRC Report
to explain why Dodd is barking up the wrong tree in claiming that the two things to focus on are "education" and "enforcement," a two-pronged strategy that has failed to do anything useful for the industry for over a decade:
The problem with this is that there's no evidence that education works. There have been hundreds of vigorous anti-piracy educational campaigns all over the world -- more than 333 in developed countries alone as of 2009 -- and they've failed. It's not that consumers don't get that media piracy is wrong. They know what they're doing. They're weighing moral considerations against price and availability, and they're deciding to go with cheap (or free), and now.
Not only is there no evidence that education has been building a stronger "culture of intellectual property." There's also little evidence that enforcement works. Splashy raids haven't reduced piracy. Two weeks ago the judge in a lawsuit by 13 record companies against LimeWire called their demand for $75 trillion in damages "absurd," and the infringement judgments that have actually been handed down also haven't stemmed the tide of illicit file sharing. In the SSRC report's words, "Strengthening police powers, streamlining judicial procedures, increasing criminal penalties, and extending surveillance and punitive measures to the Internet": to date, none of them "have had any impact whatsoever on the overall supply of pirated goods."
Of course, we've pointed this all out as well, and the response has been for people to yell about how we're "defending piracy." Yeah, or trying to prevent Hollywood from continuing down a strategy that has been proven
not to work. Instead, we agree with Kaplan that this is a business model issue, and if Dodd were a real leader
, he'd actually help move Hollywood into new territory of embracing new business models and new technology:
Sooner or later -- and judging by Chairman Dodd's speech, it'll be later -- the industry will have to move from moralism to pragmatism. Their business model has been digitally disrupted, irrevocably, and they are already vulnerable to the kind of game-changing innovation, and carnage, that Apple's iTunes visited on the music industry. If the studios are lucky, before a Netflix or a Facebook does that to them they'll figure out that neither education nor enforcement will rescue them from creative destruction. Pivoting from Moses to merchant will be an awkward adjustment, but they will eventually be forced to conclude that their other options just aren't working. It won't matter that they have righteousness on their side. If they have to spend less on producing and distributing content, distraught fans won't repent of their downloading ways. If jobs are jeopardized, it will be just as wrenching, and just as stoppable, as the transformation that globalization and rising productivity are wreaking on the rest of the economy.
What will the new business model look like? It's hard to imagine that the sequenced distribution of product over a controllable period of time through an orderly series of "windows" -- venues and platforms and formats and pipes and territories, each with their own license deals and consumer prices -- will survive unbroken. In that future, a practical agenda for handling piracy is suggested by this 2009 comment from Robert Bauer, then director of special projects for the MPAA, as quoted in the SSRC report: "to isolate the forms of piracy that compete with legitimate sales, treat those as a proxy for unmet consumer demand, and then find a way to meet that demand."
Wow. Suggesting smarter business models that involve actually delivering customers what they want
? Why that's just someone who is a piracy apologist, I guess...