It's kind of funny to see the entertainment industry make totally contradictory statements about cyberlockers and usenet access providers in talking about infringement. On the one hand, they complain about how it's "impossible to compete with free" because "pirates just want everything for free." But, at the same time, they whine about how cyberlockers and usenet services often charge
people for access, thus making them commercial enterprises who (according to the industry) "profit from piracy." But those two things seem somewhat contradictory. If people who engage in unauthorized file sharing only want stuff for free, then why do they pay these providers to get access? And if it's impossible to compete with free, then why does it look like these services have
successfully done so? Correspondingly, why doesn't the industry open up its own competitors?
All of this comes to mind as Glyn Moody
points us to an "open letter" that Mark Goodge wrote to UK Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, in response to Vaizey's statement that the blocking
of access to Newzbin2 wasn't a big deal, because users should simply go to services that offer "legal access to movie downloads at reasonable prices."
However, as Goodge points out, he knows people who
pay more for access to Usenet than it would cost to pay for a competing legitimate offering
. And the reason is because their infringing activity has nothing to do with just "wanting everything for free," but wanting more convenience
, more selection
and fewer restrictions
The reason people will pay for Usenet+Newzbin is that they want to be able to obtain movies in a format that suits them, not a format which suits the provider. They want to be able to download them and watch them whenever they want, not have to be online in order to stream them (assuming, of course, they’ve got enough bandwidth to stream movies anyway). They want a download service that gives them the same ownership and flexibility as buying DVDs. And they want to be able to obtain the movies they want to see without artificial geographic restrictions.
So, apart from the fact that it simply isn’t true that services such as Lovefilm are a suitable solution, it’s pretty clear that there’s a whole untapped market here for legitimate online purchase of movies via download. People are willing to pay, and willing to pay a fair amount -- provided that what they get in return is what they want.
At the moment, the only people making any money out of this market are those involved in infringement. As long as the movie industry maintains its outdated business practices and carries on treating its (potential) customers as the enemy, that’s how it will stay. Blocking Newzbin may result in a short-term drop in the number of people getting movies via Usenet, but it won’t lead to an increase in people getting them via legitimate means until there are suitable alternatives which provide the same level of convenience and functionality.
Contrary to popular belief, most people who “pirate” movies are not doing it for financial reasons. They’re doing it simply because nobody is offering them a product that they want to buy.
In other words, they're happy to pay... if only the industry would offer it to them in the manner that customers want. This isn't a surprise. For years, studies have pointed out that those who infringe really tend to be unserved consumers, who aren't getting the offerings in the form that they most want it. Smart companies realize that this is a form of (free) market research, and look for ways to better satisfy their customer base.
Tragically, the entertainment industry instead looks to politicians and the courts to block consumers from doing what they want, and then pretend it's for consumers' own good.Permalink
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