The "six strikes" Copyright Alert System (CAS) is barely under way and already Comcast/NBC Universal are looking to go beyond it with malware-like popups
that show up as you download a piece of content, pushing you to buy it (well, "license" it) via an authorized source. Variety has the details at the link above, though late in the article it seems to suggest that this is all really coming from the NBC Universal side, not the Comcast side, which shouldn't come as a huge surprise:
While Comcast knows the solution is feasible, the company’s engineers haven’t formally begun work on it. The project is being worked on in tandem with engineers at NBC Universal, the content side of the conglomerate.
That certainly sounds like something cooked up on the NBC Universal side of things. The offering here sounds ridiculous and intrusive:
As sources described the new system, a consumer illegally downloading a film or movie from a peer-to-peer system like Bittorrent would be quickly pushed a pop-up message with links to purchase or rent the same content, whether the title in question exists on the VOD library of a participating distributor’s own broadband network or on a third-party seller like Amazon.
This highlights a few key points:
- For all the fuss about the six strikes system and how important it was, it sure sounds like yet another expensive disaster in a long line of expensive disasters by the legacy entertainment industry in its quixotic quest to stamp out infringement. They still don't get that this isn't an education problem, nor is it an enforcement problem. It's a service problem. And being creepy and spying on what people are surfing on isn't going to make people feel particularly warm and fuzzy about moving on to buy something.
- Popups are a bad idea. As in really, really bad. First off, it just pisses people off to get any sort of popup. Second, the only way to do this is by effectively spying on all trafffic -- i.e., some sort of deep packet inspection/malware-like setup monitoring everything you do. Anyone who doesn't think that doesn't open up opportunities for abuse and security vulnerabilities hasn't been paying much attention.
- As many people warned, you knew that the legacy entertainment industry would never believe that the six strikes program was "enough." They have huge staffs of "anti-piracy" people who need to stay employed, so you had to know they were cooking up more. But, no matter what plan is agreed to, there's always going to be mission creep as they try to get more and more and more.
- Any system that involves spying on the activities of users is going to be a non-starter. Creeping the hell out of people isn't a way of encouraging them to buy. It's a way of encouraging them to want nothing to do with you.
- My favorite part: the system would include affiliate links within the alerts in an attempt to drive extra revenue and to encourage other ISPs and sites to participate. I guess it's better than pressuring companies with a stick, but the affiliate link carrot just feels sleazy.
In the end, as we've been saying all along, the way to deal with infringement is by offering users a good
reason to buy. That means providing them with more value -- whether it's direct value from purchasing authorized versions or something like a connection (e.g., so that people want to support the content creator directly). Anything that involves trying to pressure people just turns people off. It's the difference between setting up a store so that it's friendly and inviting, and filling a store with pushy salespeople who keep scolding you. One system attracts customers, the other attracts disdain. Why the legacy guys always go with the "disdain" path is beyond me.