Lisa: Look on the bright side, Dad. Did you know that the Chinese use the same word for “crisis” as they do for “opportunity”?
Homer: Yes! Cris-atunity!
– The Simpsons, episode 2F08
Over the past few months, I’ve seen things described as problems that could have instead become sources of revenue. Large organizations are calling mp3 and movie downloaders “pirates” when they could be calling them “customers.” Why can’t the MPAA and RIAA see that people going to the effort of finding and downloading music and movies would be perfectly willing to pay for the things they are “taking?” Napster isn’t a plague on the internet, it’s a great tool that can be used to capture a revenue stream. Making money from piraters requires a change in thinking, a change in revenue models, and this is where the movie and recording industry can learn something.
People are going great lengths to see movies and hear music on their computers. This is called “demand” and the demand is extreme. Frankly, it’s a pain to find a song or movie you want, track down where the file is located, and then find a server willing to give it to you. If full mp3 versions of CDs were in the 2-3 dollar range, I’d pay for music I want in a heartbeat. If I could find full album copies of the music I like in a central place, I’d pay for that service. If Napster required a $30 monthly charge to use the network, and tracked which artists I downloaded to reimburse them accordingly, again, I’d sign up in a second.
Movies require even more extreme methods. First you have to find a gathering place to see what’s available on the underground movie trading networks. Then you have to find a server, gain access somehow, then wait patiently for gigabytes to transfer from overtaxed, slow lines. Look at the pay-per-view model, Hollywood. Offer a high quality stream that can’t be saved locally, and charge a couple bucks to watch. There’s plenty of lame movies that don’t need to be viewed on the big screen to be fully enjoyed (see: every Saturday Night Live spinoff movie, most comedies, independent movies that aren’t being shown in my area).
The fact is that music and movies are going to continue to be downloaded and traded illegally. Either the powers that be in Hollywood can recognize that, and turn that into something positive, or they can chase after them in a vain attempt to shut pandora’s box.