Monday, October 04, 2004

Business As Usual

The workshop "Business Models for Mobile Music and DRM" is behind me. I don't feel like saying a lot about what took place. I think the title of this posting summarizes it pretty well. Though the "Usual" may be a bit too strong, in the sense that there was a bigger plea for openness a la the iTunes DRM model. However open that is.

Overall it was a pretty good workshop, as that it gave a look at the p2p-DRM phenomenon through the eyes of the industry. There were a lot of presentations of some of the bigger players in the mobile music market, that is music over your telephone. Nokia started off by saying it was all for openness and consumer choice, and a series of case studies by parties like Sony, telcoms O2, Orange and Vodafone finished the day with pretty much the same message: we are all for the consumer and the magic words here are individualisation and personalisation. DRM as an enabler of choice, not restriction.

I'll just give some paraphrasings and quick observations, mostly not mobile music related:

"There must be as little restrictions as possible, because consumers will make their own conclusion and go to p2p networks. Non-interoperability is not acceptable."
Maybe that's why Nokia wants to introduce DRM over the whole content chain: from provider, to end-user and what's in between.

A representative of the French MusicWave started off with presenting some figures on music sales and the impact of piracy over the past years: overturn music sales 28.7 billion (down 15%); value of piracy 58.8 billion. It's the old trick: accounting a downloaded song as a stolen song, and hence a revenue loss. Blurring the physics of the tangible (CDs) with the intangible (download). Lessig has referred to this argumentation in his Free Culture with different numbers, though the comparison is applicable here: "If every download were a lost sale - if every Kazaa "rob[bed] the author of [his] profit" - then industry would have suffered a 100 percent drop in sales last year, not a 7 percent drop."

Some more visions from the MusicWave representative:
"Everybody could install software, so at the end of the day we have some trouble there."
"The iPod is an intermediary device, proprietary handhelds will be the future...."
"DRM is not a blocking system. It is an enabler."

SDC is one of the largest providers of copyright protection measures. Its website advertises their products with quotes like "Scared of the Napster-effect ? Fear no more as SDC introduces copy protection for CD-Audio. [...] you have an effective weapon against profit-loss." & "Tired of losing millions on codecrackers turning your software to freeware? SDC helps you fight software-piracy effectively with CD Cops or Safe Disc." & "With CSS and Macrovision, SDC can now prevent your DVD-Videos from being transfered to VHS or digitally copied. The profit-losing days are over!"

The profit losing days are over indeed! That is, if the CEO of SDC can help it: "It has to be fun! Fun fun fun fun fun, funnnnnnnnnnnn! I don't want to wait for a standard. I want to make money now." He clearly pressed the point that users, ehhmmm, consumers should have a good experience, with lots of FUN! And by the way, 500 songs on your iPod was more than enough for the average consumer.

Lawyer Talk
Most off the Richter was a lawyer, who previously worked at BMG and, I believe, a copyright related office of the German government. He envisioned a socialist regime like the former DDR if copyright control was left for a flat-rate remuneration scheme. A dystopian future in which one record company split in sublabels would lead to a downfall in quality and quantity of the music. Hmmmmmm.... I think I can count the major labels that produce the vast array of molog music on one hand.

His proposition was to block illegal form legal markets. To let operators who offer legal service block access to (p2p) service that are illegal. Black and white, with the fine argumentation that operators don't have to worry that they take away consumer's rights, since "what we are blocking away shouldn't be accessed by you in the first place".

The lawyer was finely reminded that the basis for his argumentation, copyright law, provides protection of reproduction and not access control. His answer to this continued to be as rhetoric as the future socialist tunes he hears piping from flat-rate remunerration.

And more, and more
Most interesting to me was the presentation of Bill Rosenblatt of DRM Watch. He gave an overview of p2p uses, and how p2p and legal music offerings interact and might co-exist in the future. He also ridiculed California's recent "10 friends" rule for filesharing, which obligates an email address to be attached to the file before disseminating it to more than 10 people (friends or not).

Followed several case studies (SONY, O2, Vodaphone, Orange), that gave some interesting stats on the mobile music market, though were often a presentation of business models with little DRM. Sony's StreamMan looked pretty cool, the pricing (I believe 10/15 Euro for content + an additional 10 Euro for data transport) not so. As some of the paternalistic comments: "We need to educate the consumer about "property" in Intellectual Property." & "We need to protect consumers against law breaking." Sony the great protector. Sony that threw in the towel towards copy protection on CDs in Japan, for now.

Afterwards, walking through Berlin, I created the following playlist on my intermediary, 5000+ song iPod to get back into the German groove:

-Nina Hagen
-T. Raumschmiere
-Marlene Dietrich

All ripped, except Falco, but he was an Austrian anyway, with some Dutch help on his tunes.


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