Tuesday, October 19, 2010

IP protection

When Sir Tim Berners Lee published the first proposal for hypertext links in 1989 that would lead to the internet as we know it few anticipated the changes it would bring - and will continue to bring. Globalisation has been accelerated and the flow of news & information has moved outside the control of the major media groups.

Our frameworks for the ownership of intellectual property (music, books, movies, computer programmes etc) are based on the now incorrect assumption that copying and worldwide distribution of IP is an expensive and involved process. Google, YouTube and others have created global brands without the requirement to invest in "content" running the argument that they are mere conduits for the distribution of information and content.

The practical impact of this is that many sectors of the industry that had value attached to them (music archives for example) have been pretty much wiped out as EMI would testify. Building a subscriber base based on exclusivity is also a very different proposition to what it was in the 1990's - pretty much any live event is so heavily pirated that within a few clicks a free version can be viewed. The majority of pirate feeds are taken from a domestic tv feed fed directly into a capture card so the DRM solutions proposed by the technology companies are totally neutered.

For established players who built a pre-internet brand / subscriber base this does not represent a particular problem as long as churn can be controlled. New entrants, like Sentanta, are not so fortunate.

The politicians and legislators should take steps to protect the creators of intellectual property. The Digital Economy Act 2010 is a step in the right direction but the ISP's are lobbying hard to avoid offering any protection to the content owners.

New business models will emerge but an incentive to invest in new IP needs to be maintained - we can only watch and listen to repeats for so long.