Yes, You Can Compete With Free, But It Has To Be Done Right
from the don't-kill-the-golden-geese dept
We've made this point over and over again for years, and it's great to see some examples backing it up. However, when we make the point that the focus should be on this, rather than ratcheting up copyright enforcement and copyright laws -- a strategy that has never been shown to work, and which has been shown to have massive negative consequences for culture and speech -- a standard refrain from entertainment industry insiders is that they did innovate with things like iTunes, Hulu etc., and yet there's still file sharing. Thus, they say, enforcement is the answer.
That's wrong. When we talk about competing with free, we don't mean doing anything to compete with free. We mean actually making the services as good, convenient and easy. There have been cases -- like Spotify and Netflix -- where the industry has really done a good job, and then we see the results like what's happening in Sweden. But, every time we see one of those success stories, we hear of efforts by the legacy industry to make those services worse, as they feel jealous that the services, rather than the content, get all the attention. Indeed, the recording industry keeps trying to cripple Spotify, even as it competes successfully with infringement. Ditto Netflix.
There's an important point here: competing with free/infringement isn't just about doing something. It's about actually understanding what consumers want, and delivering it to them in the way they want it. Netflix and Spotify have been able to do that -- and hopefully the industry doesn't suffocate them along the way -- but just saying that making efforts should be enough is kinda like saying copyright is there because artists should get rewarded for their labor. Doing stuff doesn't get you paid. Doing stuff that people want, in a way they want it, with natural ways to make money, is how you get paid.