Monday, November 07, 2005

Reminders from the Grokster ruling

After reading articles like the Financial Times article "Grokster closes illegal music download service" (, I wanted to share my own thoughts on this subject.

For several years, I fought resolutely against music piracy. At Trax In Space and Digital Rhythms, where I served of VP of Business Strategy, piracy took a toll on our artists. I worked directly with unsigned artists, many of whom had hoped to leave behind the corporate world and pursue a career based on music. For many of these artists, piracy would eat away at potential sales -- the compensation of getting their name out was not always enough. Many people would claim that those people that pirate would not have purchased anyway. I disagree with this notion (see my closing comments of this post).

I took an approach that goes counter to the one used by the big labels. My business, Trax In Space, was founded to help artists reach their fans in a market crowded by the big labels. In a legal way, I fought on behalf of independent artists. While the major labels choose the courtroom to stop piracy, I tried to educate people instead. I feel that most people do not pirate music to conduct a crime, but do so because they are ignorant as to what the implications of their act is. When a person steals of a new pair of shoes, it is easy to see who gets hurt. In the digital world, it is much harder for a person to identify those that are affected by their actions. The lure of "free" can be too strong for most people.

Although I could not stop everyone from pirating, I felt that my approach left a more long-term solutions. Those that finally understood the impact of their actions and weighed the pros and cons of pirating, were less likely to find a way to pirate in the future. With this in mind, labels and media content owners and publishers must continue to deliver media in ways (i.e. the Internet) that users want and at prices they can afford (in my opinion, $0.99 per song is still too high). Also it should be easy for users to do the right thing - do not complicate matters with hard-to-use custom media formats, ultra restrictive licensing (DRM), etc. The convenience factor and an affordable price will make it easy for people to do the right thing. By serving the customer in ways that the customer wants to be served, media publishers can avoid having to sue their own customers. They can, instead, reserve the legal route for their most serious offenders only.

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