Monday, March 19, 2007

Web Wars

Two significant lawsuits that affect web 2.0 (life as we know it) have recently come to light and are causing major commotion among professional web-mongers like myself. The beautiful thing about the internet is it almost limitless capacity to deliver content (sight and sound) to end users at lightening speed. While I strongly believe the benefits of accessibility FAR outweigh the negatives, we wouldn’t be in America if we didn’t harp on the dark side of things to cultivate our culture of fear.

Last month the Copyright Royalty Board at the suggestion of the RIAA (The greedy bastards suing 11 year olds for downloading music) released the Internet Music Royalty Schedule for 2006-2010. How is this significant? Until now, internet radio stations that stream music to your earphones have been paying reduced per-song royalty amounts for the music they stream online. This was deemed “acceptable” by the music industry insiders because the majority of the streaming stations are FREE and run negligible advertising. At the time internet radio’s popularity was uncertain and no one was getting filthily rich off of it. Now that iradio has gained momentum among the web population, the RIAA has decided that they deserve to get paid significantly more (110% by 2010) for every song that goes out over the internet. That equals more than most of these stations make in a year. Royalties this high will force iradio stations to start requiring users to pay to listen or simply shut down altogether (the ultimate goal of the RIAA). The scary thing is, this is not a distant future situation; stations could start shutting down in the next 60 days which would signify a significant step backwards in the content and deliverability we’ve come to expect on the web.

Similarly, Viacom Networks announced this week that they are joining a joint lawsuit against Google (the owners of YouTube) over copyrighted content that YouTube users have uploaded and viewed on the site. Google believes they are indemnified because their “users” uploaded the content, not them. Viacom believes that Google is responsible for policing their video content and want damages in upwards of 1.5 Billion dollars for copyright violations. I believe that Viacom is ignorant for not realizing that yanking thousands of less-than-10-minute video snippets off YouTube is only shooting themselves in the foot. More than once users have been “teased” by a show segment on YouTube and then gone and purchased the entire episode from a Viacom supported website or even better, purchased a DVD. YouTube was founded in 2005, and has been chocked full of copyright protected videos ever since. I just find it incredibly ironic that Vicacom (et all) waited to sue until they were bought by Google, a company that has redefined the term “deep pockets”.

I think this all could represent the beginning of the end of the explosive growth of information and free content on the web. Web users are going to get real tired of entering their credit card information on every site they come across, and more importantly, the folks bringing fresh new media ideas to us via the web will be dissuaded from doing so if large royalty/copyright dollars are attached. The web will become a pay-as-you-go experience that will attract limited users, see limited reach and foster limited growth. That’s my two cents anyway.

1 comment:

THE DOC said...

"The first thing we do is kill all the lawyers."

William Shakespeare in Henry VI