If Mandelson is Telling the Truth…

The Digital Britain team recently posted up some rebuttals to the accusations directed at the government, one of them being that Lord Mandelson did a u-turn on policy after having a hearty meal with David Geffen. According to team DB…

No discussion took place with David Geffen about Digital Britain. Peter Mandelson has said he doesn’t even think the issue is on Geffen’s radar.

Suppose then that this is indeed true. If we do accept that the dinner with Geffen and the policy change announcement are completely coincidental, does that dissipate the issue? According to The Independent

Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, is said to be persuaded by the argument for tough laws to curb illegal file-sharing after an intensive lobbying campaign by influential people in the music and film industry.

Stating that their decision to enact some very controversial policies is based on intensive lobbying from the media industry to me is not an absolution but equally damning. Considering that the Digital Britain report was produced based on taking the opinions of many different groups and developing a middle ground. From these recent developments I can only assume that the media industry were not content with a balanced solution and instead continue to demand preferential treatment. At least the British citizenry now know where they stand.

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Licensing The Pirate Bay

I was caught off guard today by the announcement that Global Gaming Factory’s shareholders voted to continue their motions to purchase The Pirate Bay. Despite the loss of investors scared away by the less than smooth months GGF has had, those that remain have decided to continue on with the venture.

Torrent Freak mentions that as of yet GGF have still not secured any licensing deals, the crucial element required for the business to even start operations. The question is will they secure them at all?

When Napster took a nose dive in court and were forced to close shop until they could operate legally one of their biggest hurdles was the fact that none of the major labels would licence to them. They distrusted not only the brand but also the executives that ran the company and eventually the original Napster liquidated. It was eventually resurrected by Roxio as a sub-par subscription site using MP3.com tech after Vivendi ruthlessly bought them out.

There are some parallels with TPB buyout in that the success of the business model is dependant on licensing, which they have yet to acquire. The brand is certainly one that has caused a lot of sleepless nights to the industry and I imagine many would love to see the venture fail just because it has ‘that’ name. Finally with the freeze placed on their stock due to an ongoing investigation, a sudden loss of key company executives and a run on the investors is it the case that the industry will trust GGF anymore than they trusted our loveable foursome?

There is perhaps a bigger question here as well that I believe has been present throughout the media industry’s relations with ‘illegal’ file-sharing: is it about the content or is it about the system? Is it the fact that their products are being shared across p2p networks that worries them, or is it the networks themselves? It’s more than likely that the industry realise that the real threat these networks pose is that they make much of their business redundant. It used to be that if you were a musician and wanted to get heard your main conduit to an audience was a label, who would promote you and distribute your work. Now for many artists the possibility of going it alone is more tangible.

It’s not necessarily the case that the industry has failed to distinguish between the technology of file-sharing – which is perfectly legal – and the distribution of copyrighted content – which we have to admit is technically not – due to ignorance. They hark back to the old days where they controlled the entire supply chain and the profit margins were great. Now they have pesky middlemen from the computer industry disrupting their perfectly tuned ecosystem. The more they can convince people that the ‘networks’ are illegal, the safer their dominance.

So, will the Pirate Bay MKII receive their licensing? It’ll be interesting to find out.

Mandelson Overturns Digital Britain

The government have the unenviable task of attempting to please everyone, however yesterday they appear to have failed spectacularly, and leading the way was Lord Mandelson. Yesterday he overturned the recommendations in the Digital Britain report – a year of consultations and debates down the drain – and stated simply that we need to move fast to stop filesharing. Moving fast means that rather than mess around with silly things like, courts, trials and rights we simply disconnect anyone accused of filesharing.

Maybe he was in a go getting mood after his holiday with David Geffen, record company billionaire. I know spending time out on a yacht with billionaires gets me back in the zone. Mandelson has denied that his coming back from his hols’ with a record executive, clutching a declaration of  war against piracy is linked… because if it were the case then surely he’d admit it. Apparently his change of stance is based on an intensive lobbying campaign from influential figures in the media industry… which is COMPLETELY different from spending time with ‘influential-figure-in-the-media-industry-David-Geffen’, so I’m cool with that.

As not all of us have luxury yachts and lobbying groups to make Mandelson do what we want, those who would prefer something resembling democratic process will have to make do with an opposition coalition formed on self interest.

Our strongest force is the ISPs who will protect consumers because it’s financially better for them to do so. If these laws come in they will have to spend a great deal on monitoring us (the amount of detail required to ascertain if data packets are copyrighted data packets is enormous), more on processing any claims, and will then have to deal with cutting off their own customers. I only have a GCSE in business studies but even that tells me that having customers is better than not having customers.

Another perhaps powerful opposition is the Tories and LibDems who have jumped on this as another sign of incompetent Labour, running with it as a mud clod for the general election; whether you like them or not they’ll also be useful.

Last but certainly not least we also have those working slightly more altruistically, primarily in consumer rights groups, the Pirate Party UK (PPUK) and The Open Rights Group, all of whom are pretty much foaming at the mouth right now (in politics that’s good). For the PPUK this has been a double edged sword as although foaming is occurring, they’re also picking up more members as angry citizens are given a reason to join (in the interest of disclosure: myself included).

Hopefully if there’s opposition the implementation will be delayed, if it’s delayed it’ll probably be stuck on the backburner till the next General Election and then all opinion polls suggest these guys will be out. Problem is Mandelson knows this is the case and the media industry do as well, that’s why the original Digital Britain report wasn’t fast enough for them and they’ve sent Mandy back with a new brief, ‘do it fast’.

ADDITIONAL

Torrent Freak have – as always – a thorough piece on this story… and they mention me!

Meanwhile, as one commenter indicates in a comment on the Digital Britain site, more people will be joining the UK Pirate Party,

How to DRM the News?

It’s generally possible to lock down a media such as music or video because it requires equipment to actually play it. This is how many DRM systems work, by having security measures in both the media and the media player (Cory Doctorow gives a great run-down of how this system will always make DRM crackable).

What about news though? Twitter is becoming somewhat a secondary newswire these days, with media outlets cobbling together stories from information picked up off of Twitter, ‘breaking’ the story hours after the Twitterverse has moved on. This can also work in the other direction:  Twitter can spread one factoid to thousands within minutes and could be the BitTorrent of news in a world where news is a paid for commodity.

If I paid to access the information behind the WSJ pay-wall, does that make that information private? If I reveal some of that information to others on the web is that theft of content, or copyright infringement? Granted if I lifted the thing verbatim and reposted it onto my cleverly named http://www.freewsj.com then fair enough, but what if I just found something interesting and quoted it, or discussed some figures that I saw. At what point am I giving too much of the subscriber content away to be fair use?

From the publisher’s perspective, do you control this? If so then how? Do you try to enforce some sort of screening algorithms to pick up on anyone writing something too close to your protected content? Or do you allow it in the hope that it will drive more traffic and more customers to the originating article? If you see it as viral marketing then how much should you allow out, and is there an issue if so much talk is generated that the whole article is essentially available in pieces anyway? How do you lock down something that is communicable across so many different platforms (and if we really have to, then without a technical platform at all)? The whole endeavour seems impossible. I hope it is.

Reference

European publishers want a law to control online news access – Ars Technica

Why Did the World Economy Fail?…

… because our financial institutions are run by people that think the musings of a 15 year old work experience kid constitutes groundbreaking demographic research.

A research note written by a 15-year-old Morgan Stanley intern that described his friends’ media habits has generated a flurry of interest from media executives and investors.

The US investment bank’s European media analysts asked Matthew Robson, an intern from a London school, to write a report on teenagers’ likes and dislikes, which made the Financial Times’ front page today.

His report, that dismissed Twitter and described online advertising as pointless, proved to be “one of the clearest and most thought-provoking insights we have seen – so we published it”, said Edward Hill-Wood, executive director of Morgan Stanley’s European media team.

Twitter is not for teens, Morgan Stanley told by 15-year-old expert

News Won’t Learn from Music’s Mistakes

The news industry has been kicking up a bit of a stink that is reminiscent of the music industry in its digital infancy. They’re noticing a decline in advertising revenues and are pointing the finger at the internet for stealing away their advertising contracts. Similarly those news outlets that have an online presence are pointing the finger at Google and similar news aggregator services for making their content available outside of their originating sites meaning advertising never gets seen. On the other side of the argument the aggregators and index services argue that a large proportion of the news site traffic is because of their aggregators and indexing. It all sounds very similar to the music industry rallying against P2P for stealing their profits and streaming services for profiting off their content. The consumption patterns have changed, companies outside the circle that traditionally dealt with a media start filling the gaps, and then the old companies call for courts to protect them for being too slow.
Interestingly what is also comparable is the statistical debate; with music it was always the stats war between ‘P2P causes drops in profits’ and ‘P2P has no impact/improves profits’. With news, as the major companies claim that the internet has stolen all their revenue, stats start cropping up that in fact it may be many factors. You could argue that music sales declined due to multiple factors such as reduction in releases and the move from sales as albums to sales as tracks. With advertising revenue Robert Picard argues that it is not necessarily the internet, but the rise in other forms of physical advertising.
Over the last few weeks there have been calls from the news industries to implement essentially a DRM program across the net (ACAP) to control aggregators. News Corp have also implied that paywalls will soon be going up around their major properties. With the music industry’s recent admittance that their reaction to Napster could have been better it seems that just as one industry starts to come around, the other begins the whole process over again.

The news industry has been kicking up a bit of a stink that is reminiscent of the music industry in its digital infancy. They’re noticing a decline in advertising revenues and are pointing the finger at the internet for stealing away their advertising contracts. Similarly those news outlets that have an online presence are pointing the finger at Google and similar news aggregator services for making their content available outside of their originating sites meaning advertising never gets seen. On the other side of the argument the aggregators and index services argue that a large proportion of the news site traffic is because of their aggregators and indexing. It all sounds very similar to the music industry rallying against P2P for stealing their profits and streaming services for profiting off their content. The consumption patterns have changed, companies outside the circle that traditionally dealt with a media start filling the gaps, and then the old companies call for courts to protect them for being too slow.

Interestingly what is also comparable is the statistical debate; with music it was always the stats war between ‘P2P causes drops in profits’ and ‘P2P has no impact/improves profits’. With news, whilst the major companies claim that the internet has stolen all their revenue, stats start cropping up that in fact it may be many factors. With music you could argue that sales declined due to multiple factors such as reduction in releases and the move from sales as albums to sales as tracks. With advertising revenue Robert Picard argues that it is not necessarily the internet, but the rise in other forms of physical advertising.

Over the last few weeks there have been calls from the news industries to implement essentially a DRM program across the net (ACAP) to control aggregators. News Corp have also implied that paywalls will soon be going up around their major properties. With the music industry’s recent admittance that their reaction to Napster could have been better it seems that just as one industry starts to come around, the other begins the whole process over again.

Reference

AP to Aggregators: We Will Sue You | Wired

European publishers want a law to control online news access – Ars Technica

News Corp will charge for newspaper websites, says Rupert Murdoch | Media | guardian.co.uk

British music boss: we should have embraced Napster – Ars Technica

The Media Business: THE POOR CONNECTION BETWEEN INTERNET ADVERTISING AND NEWSPAPER WOES