Greetings to new contributor Mark Mulligan, vice president and research director at Forrester Research UK. Take it away, Mark!
The debate over how to fight online piracy is picking up pace in the UK, with the government appearing to move closer to a ‘three strikes you’re out’ termination of access approach. Even the artists have come together to agree on a strong, if slightly less strident, position of ‘three strikes and your bandwidth is squeezed’. This comes against a backdrop of the French so called Hadopi bill stumbling at numerous legislative and judicial hurdles. So where does this leave us with the piracy problem?
Illegal downloading of music is a bigger deal now than it has ever been. Peer-to-peer levels and trends vary significantly across territories, but even in those markets where
self reported levels are slowing, the slack is picked up by non-network sharing. These non-network alternatives are as numerous as they are widespread, encompassing a vast gamut of techniques, including (amongst many others) email, Instant Messaging, music blogs, forums & news groups, iPod ripping, hard drive sharing etc etc.
The simple fact is the behaviour is established and is not about to go away. Further still, for the young digital generation it is all they have ever known. Turning off the tap won’t solve the problem, it will just pent up demand until an alternative is found. But that doesn’t mean do nothing.
A clear legislative framework with clear definitions of accepted practice and consequence is a necessary backdrop to a successfully functioning economy. Music is no
different. Because the digital revolution has pushed the boundaries of Intellectual Property further than legislation can comfortably accommodate, change is needed. But that doesn’t either mean that legislation can be required to do all the heavy lifting, rather it is the necessary backdrop to market led solutions.
ISPs, mobile operators and the music industry will find themselves increasingly close business partners in the mid term future and beyond. We are currently in the midst of the Media Meltdown in which all of the old rules of engagement are being challenged. We are shifting from the distribution paradigm (where everything was about selling units of ‘stuff’) to the consumption era, where revenues will increasingly stem from successful monetization of access to content. Access providers (along with device manufacturers) are the ideal conduit for access based business models that combine the carrot and the stick.
Being successful business partners, requires good relationships. It is in the interests of all parties to find commercial solutions to the challenges facing them as the heavy hand of legislation is a blunt instrument that is a) likely to leave everyone unhappy and b) is so slow that the parties will likely be burdened with responsibilities that will be outmoded and largely irrelevant by the time they are implemented.
Potentially ground breaking partnerships such as the unlimited MP3 service announced between Virgin Media and Universal Music in the UK are the models to be followed.
The kids are not about to stop file sharing simply because they’re told to. They need compelling legal alternatives that are simply a better, more convenient choice compared to file sharing and the associated risk of consequences.
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