Pirates of the Millennium I: IPR vs. CRM vs. DRM …vs. CPR (Oops, sorry, that’s about people. But we’ll get to them…eventually.)
Last year we loved “Pirates” — global blockbuster film franchise. Yay. This year we hate “pirates” — antichrist of the entertainment business. Boo.
We’re talking Intellectual Property Rights, baby. Yeah, sexy. Wink. Just want to hear Mike Meyers say that once. Oh, please, just once to make me laugh and lift me out of the mucky digital intellectual property drama that I’m currently watching.
It’s big, it’s global and it’s nasty. Everyone is hopping mad. It’s turning into a battle of the pirates vs. the good guys, but a battle in which it’s sometimes hard to know exactly who the good guys are. Was Jack Sparrow the bad guy or the good guy? Quickly–Yes or No. Didn’t we like him? We know that creepy Davy Jones is the real bad guy pirate, and those ghost thieves are, too. OK, got that part. Wait, don’t we feel sorry for them?
Here’s the cast of this year’s saga Pirates of the Millennium I:IPR vs.CRM vs. DRM:
The U.S. ship – a crew of sword brandishing TV, film and radio interests: Entertainment conglomerate Viacom advances with a major strong arm lawsuit against YouTube (or as Mark Cuban loves to call them GooTube) for $1 billion in losses over copyright infringements. While in Radio, the RIAA [aka big label mouthpiece) finally and successfully explodes small and independent Internet radio stations out of the water by regulation and exorbitant royalty fees. Casualties: thousands of small, local independent internet stations and unsigned independent artists.
The European ship – a disparate but vocal band of music institutions: The European Parliament, meeting in Brussels, voted on March 14 to regulate the online music market with “binding legislation” and gradual new regulation, trying to keep a straight course and avoid what they deemed an abrupt and unfair disruption of current regional CRMS [Collective Rights Management Societies] agreements. As reported in The Hollywood Reporter by Leo Cendrowicz of Billboard.biz:
The European members of parliament said that a “big bang” opening of online licensing would hurt the wider European music sector, as it would lead to market domination by just a handful of major rights holders.” (See THR article here.)
You mean like in the U.S.? … As I understand the issues, one of the EP’s concerns was about not squeezing out regional [read smaller] cultures and losing whole sections of European music.
Sounds good, right? Not so fast, Jack. As soon as the paper was signed, the English CRMs delivered another round of cannon fire [again from Leo Cendrowiz]:
Rights bodies immediately expressed concern at the Parliament vote. In a joint-statement issued at midday, U.K. trade association British Music Rights, the umbrella body which represents the interests of British music writers and publishers, suggested the adopted report was confused and contradictory…The European Parliament’s document, says BMR’s London-based CEO Emma Pike, represented a “hotchpotch of conflicting provisions that will neither help nor hinder market developments in online music licensing”.
See Jack in the ocean, frantically running away from angry cannibals. Run, Jack, run!
Wait, who am I rooting for?
So if the IP rights are a complicated issue that the institutions and even the lawyers can’t agree on, it certainly doesn’t look like it’s an issue that will get resolved anytime soon. As if IP wasn’t always a difficult issue, sometimes more or less clear, it’s now sunk into the murky depths of an ever expanding, more complex ocean of digital technology that is changing as quickly as I can type this. Because, like in the movie, justice will prevail. Right?
Wait, there are more real pirates. No, I mean it. I’m not making light of the situation. Even LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has gotten involved, appointing an anti-piracy task force. A Los Angeles economic study found that entertainment companies lost $5.2 billion in income and 106,000 jobs in 2005 from piracy. I believe that there is real DVD and other bootlegging. Even if the numbers aren’t totally accurate, there is a tangible loss going on. (See original story by Carl DiOrio in The Hollywood Reporter. )
But wait, there’s yet another ship, the swashbuckling maverick Mark Cubanwho subpoenas GooTube to talk to the user pirates [aren’t they the bad guys?] who are uploading the clearly stolen TV shows on the website. Egads! He just wants to know why, as he backs up the ensuing lawsuit with GooTube, crying out “You Go, Viacom!” (See here.)
OK, now I know who to root for: Sir Mark. He’s finally going to try to understand what’s going on with the users without killing anyone. He’s using his head. I like that. I am also starting to agree with his take on the Tuber [my personal nickname for YouTube]. The position of the Tuber ranges between merely specious –“we didn’t do anything wrong, our users did”– and egregiously irresponsible–“we don’t even know who they are”. Is this simply negligence? If not, then villainous? Felon-is? What are they thinking? Entire TV episodes? No, no, this is not good practice.
Off-screen, a voice of truth rises above the din. In his ReelPop blog, Steve Bryant reminds us that “In Viacom v. Google, ignorance is not bliss” and lays out the facts for us in plain English. You can see the info here, but one notable fact is that Viacom’s total revenues in 2006 were $11.5 billion. Viacom’s lawsuit is asking $1 billion of Tuber. Claiming, in essence, that it’s losing 10% of its income to YouTube. Arrgh.
Welcome to Hollywood, where we sink pirate ships with lawsuits.
Is there a sequel somewhere, anywhere? Can we slay the many tentacled Davy Jones piracy issue and get on with our lives and our entertainments?
My questions are these: Why, at this late date, are content producers still not providing DRM protection for their properties? Why should protection and rights management be the domain of distributors? Besides filters, why can’t YouTube limit the size of uploaded files? Won’t the audience decide ultimately where they will go for content?
Millions of audience/participants of this adventure swirling in a storm of controversy and bad publicity for all the major players. So now the customers are the bad guys?…Does anyone know CPR?….Please, help, we’re drowning…
See my sequel post Pirates of the Millennium II: The Brazilian Solution.
Meanwhile, read the Glossary below.
GLOSSARY : Pirates of the Millennium, Part I: IPR vs. CRM vs. DRM
IPR – Intellectual Property Rights. An issue that is hard for most people to understand.
CRM-Collective Rights Managers. Europe’s ASCAP/BMI type organizations who can’t agree on much.
DRM – Digital Rights Management. Built-in technology for internal protection of creative content, hardly used by producers.
DMCA – The Digital Millennium Act of 1998. International digital copyright laws that were written in 1996 and passed in 1998, which must be kind of out of date by now, don’t you think. Comments by expert lawyers most welcome.
Viacom– an entertainment conglomerate that wishes in its wildest dreams it was losing 10% of its income to YouTube.
YouTube(aka GooTube, aka Tuber) – a video sharing social networking site that was originally started so kids could have some fun and is now a place where big corporations can fight over how many billions they are going to get out of it.
Millennium– A hoped-for period of joy, serenity, prosperity, and justice (third meaning, source: yourdictionary.com); also, something we are not going to see anytime too soon.