It was a single (re)Tweet on January 7 echoing the words of dozens of other digital observers this century. The advice from Dotcom was viewed by many as the key to solving a decade-long entertainment industry battle that began with an effort to force pirates offline and back into bricks-and-mortar stores.
But of course, that was their first big error.
When the downloading ‘problem’ first appeared people didn’t want to go back into the stores, they wanted access to media online in the most convenient form possible. Sick of being ripped off by two-track wonder albums padded out with junk at an inflated price, they wanted tomorrow’s world today. If the corporates weren’t going to provide it, they would make their own reality instead.
As soon as it became clear that people weren’t going to shelve their new-found freedoms, the record labels’ initial response wasn’t a creative one. Instead of coming up with a decent offering to tempt consumers back they chose to sue thousands of Americans instead. That campaign is still reviled today and did little to end the problem or win the hearts of consumers.
Of course, what they should’ve done – a full 10 years ago – is outlined in Dotcom’s Tweet.
Although it’s safe to assume that Dotcom’s comments were largely directed at Hollywood (who still have difficulty with DRM free, day and date releases, and making their product easy to buy), today a rather unexpected party has jumped in on the debate.
RIANZ, the New Zealand version of the RIAA representing the big recording labels, says “the music industry has delivered on all five points suggested by Dotcom.”
On “Create great stuff” RIANZ points out that while “great is obviously subjective” there are tens of millions of tracks now available for legal download. Twenty digital services available in New Zealand makes their product “easy to buy”, which includes the majority of music releases which are “available simultaneously worldwide.”
On the issue of price RIANZ says that “music has never been cheaper to buy or access” which may indeed be true. However, it is often argued that the price of music before the download revolution is hardly a realistic reference point – inflated prices due to restrictive market practices were another thing file-sharing turned upside down.
The final point – “works on any device” – is a reference to DRM and to their credit the recording industry did eventually respond to this big issue. A large proportion of downloaded music these days does tend to be playable on any device.
Nevertheless, while the music industry has finally come round to the needs of consumers with legal digital take-up coming on in leaps and bounds, the piracy bogeyman still exists.
“Despite [addressing all of the points outlined by Dotcom] music piracy continues unabated in New Zealand at one of the highest per capita rates in the western world. It has also grown every year since 2006 which is when iTunes opened for business in New Zealand,” RIANZ told NZHerald.
“Unfortunately it seems the only way to beat piracy is to take legal action against those who deliberately choose to deny songwriters and recording artists their basic human right to make a living from their creativity,” they conclude.
Here we go again……….