Intellectual property law is a weapon of mass distraction. Because, whatever you may think: extending copyright protection up to 600 years after the death of the original creator (or forever, if you cannot show a death certificate) is not really about the rights of the creators anymore, but a nice windfall for rights holders with total buyout clauses in their contracts.
But as the US, champion of all things copyright, has some other industrial interests as well, the Digital Millenium Act creates a nice safe harbor for their Internet beasts. If you’re a technical platform and a bit careful, your users can essentially upload anything they want (at their own peril, but without repercussions for the platform). Most other jurisdictions went the draconian WIPO way. But, lacking a strong Internet lobby, the platform exempts are a nice example of American exceptionalism.
So the latest skirmish about Music labels pressing Vimeo on copyright claims is more or less a very good example for the effects of industrial policy. Essentially, the US are hedging their bets:
- Copyright law is super-important. But there are other protectable interests as well (which might even have a much bigger potential).
- Size does matter, even in a safe harbor environment: you’ll need an army of lawyers.
In TV, the struggles are not that different. Take this: satellite operator Dish network is marketing a digital video recorder with a very nice feature. AutoHop gives you commercial free TV. Consumer might love it, the networks are suing, but Dish prevails. Looks like a healthy struggle between incumbent interests vs. unavoidable technological changes.
Compare this to a situation like in German TV. Because of some haywired industrial policies, catch-up services integrated into your viewing experience are virtually nonexistent. Net-based PVR services are ruled as cyber crime. Even digital retransmission rights are a cumbersome business, to be negotiated one by one.
The effect: the commercial networks spend way too much energy on rearguard actions, fighting proxy wars to keep the status quo. Meanwhile, the future is invented somewhere else. Just wait for this house of cards to come down.
What’s your take?