Why Big Business Is Stupid | January 23, 2012

If there’s one thing that big organisations, from the US Government to Sony Pictures, are good at it’s not facing up to reality. This is probably down to the fact that these leviathan’s can, to some degree, define reality. They just can’t do this to quite the degree that they think they can. This makes them slow to adapt and poor at exploiting genuinely great opportunities. Instead they try to keep things the same and maximise their tried and tested revenue streams.

Big organisations hate change, unless it’s their idea, which it rarely is. Copyright bills are great examples of this. Has any copyright law so far actually reduced copyright infringement to any great degree? I doubt it and I doubt that any ever will, so there really is no point wasting precious government time on bills like SOPA and PIPA.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for people being able to profit from their creativity, I am pro-copyright, I should have the right to own these very words that I am typing now. However, the notion that copyright can control the reproduction of work is, in this day and age, simply out of date and entirely impossible to enforce.

The definition of copyright has changed before, and it should change again. Outside of the US, books used to have a resale clause in them, telling you that you must not resell or even lend the book to someone else. They don’t carry that message anymore. Is this because the general public didn’t acknowledge it as being valid? Books are resold everywhere, and they have been for a long time, and I don’t remember hearing about the Salvation Army being busted for having books in their stores, despite the fact that the second hand market appears to be distribution without profit, at least for the original maker.

And this is pertinent, the second hand market for books, DVDs, videogames or CDs appears, on the surface, to generate very little wealth for the creator of the material, either the creative artist or the legions that operate the channels they work through. The only benefit is publicity for the creative behind the work, so if you picked up a second hand copy of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth cheap and liked it, you might buy her latest book first hand. Perhaps the second hand market is the viral advertising of physical media.

So what’s the viral advertising of digital media? The actual media, of course! Piracy wouldn’t be a problem if no one wanted to copy this media. Surely this very fact can be leveraged in some way.

Big media cares little for copyright, it cares about profits. If one business model doesn’t work then these companies owe it to their shareholders to find a new one that does. For the TV and movie industry I think there’s a very obvious technological solution that will create a great viewing experience for the viewer, and revenue for the makers, all without misguided legislation that will only ever damage websites of genuine value.

I pay a subscription to have Sky TV, some of the shows are sponsored, so why the hell do I also have to suffer adverts? Many shows can be watched on a website, which is quite convenient, but they also have adverts. But no one likes adverts; folk don’t like shouty adverts for the latest thing to get a flatter stomach or a brain like a computer. Do the pirates rip shows and leave the adverts in, of course not, who wants to watch that.

But what if the adverts weren’t explicit and were instead implicit, like product placement, but a lot more sophisticated. TV shows are full of saleable items – clothes, music, furniture, food, anything, they hurl ideas at us about what we can buy. And on a computer all these things can be clicked on – like a jacket on the lead character, just move the cursor to it and click, or tap on it on a touch screen. With an authored layer over the whole show or movie this click would mean something, it would mean you bookmark the product and then, when the entertainment ends the internet opens up and gives you places to buy these things.

“How cool was Brad Pitt in that jacket? I want it!” and still bathing in the afterglow you go to an online store and buy it. The best thing about this is that the makers of movies and TV shows can actually take advantage of the fact that everyone’s copying and distributing their content around the internet. When all moving image media can identify itself and link to websites selling stuff then the more times its copied the better. And because the companies that make the films and TV shows in the first place are posting their material to the torrent sites first and at a good quality, it stands to reason that their click/touch encoded version will be the most popular to download.

This isn’t rocket science, but it is an opportunity to make a lot of money, definitely as much as any the big media producers are generating at the moment. When the world changes, you have to change with it, that’s what the rest of us have to do. So, big media, stop whinging, grow up, catch up with the world and employ some people that have the vision to see what using other peoples’ bandwidth to distribute your content really is: The greatest opportunity your industry has ever had.



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