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February 6, 2012
The Next Generation Joins The Copyright Wars
When the Cartel smashed Napster back in 1999 and I first started blogging about Copyfighting, Paul Tassi wasn't even in high school. Now he's writing for Forbes
magazine and he has some very definite things to say about where we are and how he and, I think, his age group peers view this conflict.
In an opinion piece titled "You Will Never Kill Piracy, and Piracy Will Never Kill You" he lays out how he sees the Cartel's position in the immediately post-SOPA world. "Doomed" doesn't quite cover it, but "dumb" sure applies.
His argument is one we've made here for many years: service trumps all. ITunes wasn't the first MP3 service and by many measures wasn't the best. But it had a service orientation, disruptive low pricing, and no friction-inducing mechanisms like subscriptions. The user experience was good. Did the advent of iTunes stop people illegally copying music? Hell no. Did it prove that legal music sales could capture billions of dollars right alongside illegal copying? Hell yes.
Of course, the idea for and implementation of iTunes didn't come from the Cartel. It came from a tech company that is used to existing in a world where competitive value propositions rule the day. Tassi's piece argues that in order to survive, and to combat movie sharing via things like illegal torrents, Hollywood needs to refocus on providing a better user experience. Again, this isn't a new argument. But it's being made in Forbes, not on some random blog nobody reads, and it's being made by a guy who grew up steeped in the anti-piracy jihad of the last decade. And if it wasn't clear that he and his generation couldn't give a rat's ass about this jihad before now, it should be abundantly clear now.
Nearly two years ago I wrote that my most optimistic outcome for the Copyright Wars lay with the next generation. Kids who made remix culture mainstream. Kids who grew up knowing that the digital economy was all about them, marketing to them, getting their attention and if they didn't like the terms of the deal in front of them it was easy to click on to the next deal. I think Tassi is Exhibit A that I was right. Sure, he dings movies and DVDs for being overpriced, just like Roger Ebert and Dan Gillmor. But unlike us old folk he's not just grumbling and then paying out anyway. He's saying "make me a better deal and I'll switch off BitTorrent; fail to make me a better deal and I'm gone."
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